Sunday, September 17, 2017

Oregon Kills Mecham Pack Wolf

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife killed a member of the Mecham pack that lives in the northeast corner of the state. The female wolf was shot dead on September 7th in Umatilla County.  The wolf allegedly predated four times on a cattle herd grazing a 4,000 acre private ranch.  The killing is the fifth wolf to be legally exterminated in August.  The agency killed four wolves of the Harl Butte Pack, effectively eliminating the entire pack.  According to the agency the Harl Butte wolves had attacked livestock eight times in August.  The owner requested ODFW to exterminate the entire Mecham pack, but the agency choose to take an incremental approach in hopes the lethal action will dissuade the pack from predation on livestock. ODFW in defense of its lethal action said the livestock owner had taken proper precautions to deter the wolves, including hiring a range rider five days a week to maintain a human presence on the range. 

Oregon joins its neighboring state of Washington in using lethal control methods against re-colonizing wolves.  Washington authorized lethal action against the newly formed Sherman wolf pack in Ferry County.  Two wolves from the Smackout pack were killed earlier this summer.  The continued removal of wolves is raising concerns among activists about how committed both states are to a policy of allowing wolves to reestablish themselves in the northwest.

Washington recently adopted a new wolf management plan that recognized the wolf's right to exist in the state.  Oregon is in the process of adopting a new wolf policy.  An unexplained pause in this process allowed the lethal actions in August to go forward under the old rules skewed in favor of agricultural interests. Fears are that the "update" will be the same old policy that favors economic "producers" over wildlife.  The Oregon governor has been petitioned by 18 conservation groups to intervene to protect wolves, so far without a response.  Interestingly, the long-time manager of Oregon's wolf "management" program has decided not to wait to retire [photo above].

Washington has experienced a 30% increase in the number of wolves living in the state.  Oregon's population is estimated at 112 concentrated mostly in the northeast corner.  The department has documented four pairs raising new pups in northeast Oregon this summer. So despite the lethal control efforts these populations are expected to increase and therefore conflicts with humans will also increase.  Wolves are more likely to kill or attack livestock in late summer and early fall, as they prepare for winter and teach their pups to hunt.  So the question really comes down to not what to do with the wolves, but the intolerant humans who seem viscerally incapable of co-existing with another carnivore.