Living with wolves not possible for ranchers
I feel very disgusted at the person that would lower themselves to the nasty gram message in Rona Johnson article “Sticks and Stones.” Obviously, they have no agricultural background and no understanding of what livestock producers go through dealing with wolves. After reading the Sticks and Stones article I decided I needed to respond. As a rancher right in the middle of the hot spot when wolves first came to Oregon, I believe I am as qualified to comment on wolf issues as anyone, through my personal experience.
If you think you can just chase them off, here’s what we experienced. One night the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife called and told us we had a GPS collared wolf on our ranch. We drove up the creek where the wolves were at and shot in the air until they left. The very next night that same pack of wolves were killing cattle around 10 miles away. Our night of safety cost our neighbors. Also, one night we had our weaned calves in small fields in between two houses about one mile apart. We knew wolves were close, so one of our neighbors was out driving around until 3 a.m. and I was out at 4 a.m. but the wolves had gotten into those calves in the one hour when no one was around. If you think your livestock are safer close to a residence, we had a first calf heifer killed within 200 yards of the house in a wide-open field. She was not eaten, but once skinned, the teeth markings and deep bruising were all over her. She was one of the few that was confirmed as a wolf kill.
If you have been told that fladry is the answer, which is putting a wire with flags on it around your cattle, I can tell you the Wallowa County Courthouse’s basement, in Enterprise, Ore., is full of fladry and they will probably give it to you because it isn’t realistic to use in Wallowa County.
I hate to say it but once wolves start killing livestock, the only way to stop them is to remove the pack. No one wants to see this happen, but it is reality. Nothing we tried worked. The Oregon plan calls for three strikes and then the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are supposed to take them out.
These are just some of the problems that have happened to us dealing with the endangered wolf. If I read the article in The Fence Post right it will be May 2023 before they have any management or compensation plan for livestock kills by wolves in Colorado. Trust me there will never be a compensation plan to cover the extra hours it takes to try, and the worst part about it is, mostly fail to protect your livestock from wolves. The loss of sleep worrying every night whether the livestock you have cared for from the time they were born are going to be safe from something you can do nothing about is something that was extremely hard for me to live with. A compensation program might cover the cost of the cow if you can get her confirmed as a wolf kill, and as time goes on they become more reluctant to confirm the kills. But it won’t cover the loss of income from the calves that she would have produced. A compensation program also will not cover the weight loss from as initial attack, nor will it cover the weight loss from the nervousness and agitation instilled in livestock for years after a wolf attack because it is something that livestock don’t recover from, their mentality changes. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen to you. But, for most of you in the livestock business, especially on the western slope of Colorado, it will become a reality over the next few years.
Just a side note, in the initial “wolf recovery plan” there was only supposed to be 30 breeding pairs in the western United States. Guess what, somebody lied to us.
– Porter is a rancher from Baker City, Ore., and former resident of western Colorado.
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