Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wolves in Oregon
By Senator Doug Whitsett (Klamath Falls, District 28), Feb. 18, 2011
Russian news media is reporting the extreme end-game that results from the introduction and failure to control timber wolves. They report that a Siberian town of 1,400 people has been terrorized for the past three weeks by a pack of 400 wolves. Residents are describing the siege as an “animal apocalypse”. In the Verkhoyansk region, “everyone who can hold a rifle is mobilized to fight wolves”.
Starting February 18, 2011, authorities in Slettas, Norway are currently providing free transportation for school children who live more than 800 yards from their bus stop in order to protect them from wolves. Their representative in Parliament said “it has gone too far when we have to drive children to school for fear they will meet a wolf pack on the road”.
An experimental population of Canadian Gray Wolves was introduced into Montana’s Yellowstone Park in 1995. They were subsequently listed as endangered species, functionally preventing their unrestricted reproduction and migration.
During the past 15 years, they have reproduced and migrated to populate Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and parts of Utah with several thousand of these vicious, imported predators. In those states they have decimated the elk, deer and moose populations as well as causing extensive mortality and other related losses to their livestock industry.
Most recently the Canadian Gray Wolves have migrated into northeastern Oregon.
Last Tuesday an Enterprise cattle rancher found two of his cows that had been killed by wolves in the most cruel way imaginable. The wolves had dragged the heavily pregnant cows down by their hamstrings without inflicting a killing bite wound. These sadistic creatures had then proceeded to eat the still living cows from behind, ripping their live calves from their reproductive tract, and partially consuming the still living fetuses. Wildlife Services, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have all confirmed that the cows and their calves were killed by wolves.
The interaction with wolves began in Oregon starting back in March of 2010. Agencies have confirmed at least 11 cattle kills in Oregon. Another 23 calves and 9 cows are missing and presumed lost to predation. It is difficult to document livestock killed by wolves on rangeland because these cattle are often not seen by their owners for weeks at a time. If the remains are found the evidence required to confirm a wolf kill is usually long gone.
It is even more difficult to quantify the losses sustained from herds being hazed by wolves. That constant fear of being attacked causes loss of gain, failed reproduction, and selective exclusion from grazing areas.
Both state and federal law prevents livestock owners from using lethal methods to protect their livestock. It is hard to imagine the frustration and rage experienced by a livestock owner when they know that their livestock is being cruelly attacked but they are prevented from protecting those animals by draconian federal and state laws.
Neither state nor federal governments reimburse the livestock owners for their losses. Privately funded reimbursement programs have proven inadequate and unreliable. Some of these private programs appear to purposely mislead both the public and the livestock owners as to their scope and benefits.
After fifteen years of virtual unchecked wolf predation, Democratic Montana governor Brian Schweitzer has finally had enough.
Last week the governor sent a letter to Interior department Secretary Ken Salazar expressing his frustration at the lack of any federal results that recognize Montana’s rights and responsibilities to manage its wildlife and to protect its domestic livestock. The Governor informed the Secretary that livestock producers who harass or kill wolves attacking their livestock will not be prosecuted by Montana, and in fact, will be directed not to investigate or cite anyone protecting livestock. He further informed the Secretary that in the most adversely affected Bitterroot Valley he has instructed his agencies to cull these wolves by whole-pack removal to enable elk herds to survive and recover.
I have introduced two bills in the current Legislature to address the predation problem in Oregon.
SB 583 prohibits Oregon State Fish and Wildlife commission from listing gray wolves on the list of Oregon threatened or endangered species. This will prevent Oregon from having more restrictive regulations concerning control of wolves than the federal regulations in the event that wolves are again removed from the federal endangered species list.
SB 584 requires that a specific percentage of money received from issuance of hunting licenses tags and permits be paid to the counties where the licenses, tags and permits were issued to be used for predator control. Funding for predator control has been systematically reduced at the national, state and county level for at least the past decade. We cannot expect to control predation on our wildlife and domestic animals without funding the effort. This bill would establish a dedicated stream of state funding to address the issue.
Predation by coyotes and cougars has been an escalating problem on our wildlife and domestic animals for at least two decades. The migration of wolves into Oregon is rapidly intensifying that crisis.
I believe that the time to take action is now before we are forced to take up arms to protect our communities and our children.
Both SB 583 and SB 584 were assigned to the Senate committee on the environment and natural resources. Neither bill has yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.