Last Updated on March 18, 2022 by Stone
In late July 2021, state officials granted a kill permit for 4 Oregon wolves to a producer in Oregon who had experienced injuries to his livestock from a nearby wolf pack. This pack had only been established in the area since 2019. There are 4 adults and 7 new pups who were born in 2021. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) can choose to help the producer and they did by killing two 14 week old pups from a helicopter. Conservation groups are angered by this. Read on to find out more.
Oregon Wolves Background
Wolves almost vanished from the continental United States in the early part of the 20th century, and Oregon was no exception. Recovery efforts that started in the 1980s are slowly bringing the population back. In the 90s, with the cooperation of the Canadian government, wolves were captured in Western Canada and relocated to Yellowstone National Park. Eventually, they migrated outside the borders (and safety of the park) and dispersed throughout the neighboring states. Some of these wolves eventually made it to Oregon and even California, where there haven’t been wolves for over 100 years.
Where are they Found?
Oregon state wildlife biologists counted 173 wolves this past winter. This is a 9.5% increase from the previous year’s count. Annual counts are based on data points like visual sightings, tracks, images captured on remote cameras, etc. The count only represents known wolves, and the actual number is assumed to be higher since not every wolf can be located and counted.
State officials counted twenty-two packs this year; a pack is 4 or more wolves that are traveling together. Seventeen of these packs had at least two adults and two pups, making them “breeding pairs.” There were 7 other groups of only 2-3 wolves counted, but these were not considered packs. Sadly, the latest update to the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan from June 2019 paves the way to make it easier to kill wolves by the state (threshold is lower) and puts public hunting and trapping on the table.
Which Pack or Oregon Wolves were Targeted for Killing and Why Were 2 Pups Shot?
Mount Emily – Most Recent License to Kill Issued.
Mount Emily is a mountain in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon in the United States. It is located in western Union County on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Mount Emily is visible from much of the Grande Ronde Valley. Its southern edge is a landmark in, and symbol of, the city of La Grande.
A livestock producer who experienced three depredations in 2 months was granted a permit to kill one wolf on 4000 acres of private land. The permit expires on August 31, 2021, when one wolf is killed or the producer’s livestock is removed from the area (whichever comes first).
Depredation is defined as the act of attacking or plundering. In this case, 5 sheep and 2 calves were killed. If the landowner decides to use a foothold trap, he must undergo training and demonstrate the ability to ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife).
For a wolf killing to be approved, the producer must demonstrate chronic depredation despite non-lethal countermeasures. In addition, there cannot be anything on the property like bone piles or carcasses that can attract wolves. All of this must be documented before a permit is issued.
While I am not in support of killing wolves, this particular producer has done a lot to avoid getting to this point:
“The producer has removed dead animal carcasses from the landscape. In late May, the producer searched the pasture for two days for attractants and wolf signs before sheep turn-out. When available, the sheep were night penned in established permanent corrals. Livestock guardian dogs and a sheepherder were present 24-hours per day for monitoring and protection.
Electrified night penning of sheep occurred when the use of an established permanent corral was not available. They continually monitor the health of the sheep and cowherds and remove sick and at risk of attracting predators.
Since mid-June, the producer has employed a range rider 6-7 days/week with the cows and calves to have a near-constant human presence during daylight hours in the heavily timbered pasture. The range rider is an experienced outdoorsman that has been monitoring for wolf tracks and other signs. The producer has adjusted their turn-out dates later in the year to allow pasturing of larger calves and choose the largest of their calves to be put in this pasture.”
Lookout Mountain Pack – Another Kill Order that has left 2 Pups Dead.
Lookout Mountain, elevation 6,536 feet, is the second-highest peak in Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest and the highest point in Badger Creek Wilderness. It sits about 8 miles east-southeast of Mount Hood, separated by the East Fork Hood River valley.
Another livestock producer was issued another permit because four young cows were injured over a two-week period in mid to late Juley 2021. This permit expires on August 21, 2021, when 4 wolves are killed, or the livestock are removed from the area, whichever comes first. ODFW can also kill wolves included in the permit to help the producers; that is exactly what they did.
This producer also had well-documented use of non-lethal measures for years, including night checking of calving cows, placing cows near the house and barns in a small pasture, burying dead calves and cows, and so on. The rationale for killing 4 wolves was to “reduce the pack’s food needs and disrupt the pack’s behavior, so they don’t associate livestock with an easy meal.”
Unfortunately, ODFW officials killed two 14 week old pups from a helicopter. I agree with Defenders of Wildlife that using lethal means to address depredation is not a long-term solution and is, in fact, reactionary. Also, the killing of pups is shameful.
The Lookout Mountain pack only settled in the area in 2019 and, by 2020consisted of 4 members. A litter of 7 pups was born in the spring of 2021, which has been reduced to 5 so far. The permit still allows for 2 more kills⸺hopefull the clock runs out.
What Can you Do to help Protect Oregon Wolves and Wildlife?
You could consider a donation to the International Wolf Foundation. With your support, they aim to spread the facts about wolves and work to ensure their survival around the globe. Their mission is:
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands, and the human role in their future.
Another great organization is the Defenders of Wildlife. Their mission is:
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.
Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring imperiled species and their habitats in North America.
Visiting Wolves in Oregon
There is one place that you are guaranteed to see a real live wolf in Oregon, The White Wolf Sanctuary in Tidewater, Oregon.
2 hours from Portland, the sanctuary is located in the hills outside of Tidewater. It was founded in 1999 with the mission to “preserve and protect wolves, promote the recovery of wolf populations where appropriate and encourage conservation through education of all wildlife and the role it plays in the natural world.
They have 6 wolves at the moment, 5 are arctic (all white), and one is a gray wolf. All were born in captivity but are still not tame. Volunteers run the non-profit, and the wolves are well taken care of in large enclosures. In the wild, wolves are lucky to live 5-7 years. There are wolves at the sanctuary 12+ years old.
For $75/adult and $25/child, you get a 2-hour visit. The guide will meet everyone at a nearby parking lot, and then you will follow them along a private secluded road to the sanctuary. Around half of the visit is an educational presentation, and the remainder of the time, you walk around the area to the different wolf enclosures and learn about each animal. There is a small gift store on-site as well. It’s a great way for nature lovers to spend an afternoon.
There is so much livestock in the United States ⸺ literally millions of animals. It is crazy how the death of a couple of animals can justify the slaughter of wolves. In places like Wisconsin, Idaho, and Montana, the goal is to wipe out 90% or more.
The argument is that wolves will destroy ranchers’ livelihoods, and yes, some people also say that they will attack humans⸺though that is exceptionally rare). In 2015 there were 112 million cattle in the US. 4.5 million died from all unwanted causes, with most (3.6 million) dying from health problems, weather, and theft. About 281,000 deaths came from all predators (0.3%). Wolves accounted for taking only 0.0009% of the US cattle inventory. The number maybe even less than this since the USDA calculates death from wolves very differently (and inflates it) than that of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. https://www.humanesociety.org
Wolves receive most of the punishment for being a very small contributor to livestock deaths. Not much has changed since the observations of Farley Mowat in Canada’s arctic in which wolves were blamed for dwindling caribou herds. There are many reasons for deer herds to fluctuate; trophy hunters killing scores of healthy animals from planes to select the best rack and leave the carcasses on the ice to rot didn’t help. At least the wolves were killing the old, sick, and least fit calves that they could catch.
For wolves, the struggle to share this planet with humans continues.