THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
ODFW wildlife managers intend to remove some of the adult wolves in northeast Oregon’s Harl Butte pack to limit further livestock losses as non-lethal measures and hazing have not been successful in limiting wolf depredations.
On July 28, ODFW received a lethal removal request from several affected livestock producers from a local grazing association after two depredations were confirmed in a five-day period. They asked that the entire Harl Butte pack be removed due to chronic livestock depredation. ODFW has decided to deny the request and will take an incremental approach instead, removing two members of the pack and then evaluating the situation. “In this chronic situation, lethal control measures are warranted,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator. “We will use incremental removal to give the remaining wolves the opportunity to change their behavior or move out of the area.”
In the past 13 months, ODFW has confirmed seven depredations by the Harl Butte Pack in Wallowa County, which killed three and injured four calves. Six of the depredations have occurred in an area that supports dispersed livestock grazing in large forested pastures on private and public lands. ODFW believes that depredations may continue or escalate despite non-lethal deterrent measures in place due to the history of depredation by this pack.
When non-lethal deterrence measures are not sufficient, the state’s Wolf Management and Conservation Plan allows for lethal control as a tool to address continuing depredation. At the request of a producer or permittee, ODFW can consider lethal control of wolves under these circumstances: if it confirms at least two depredations of livestock; if the requester documents unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation thru non-lethal means; if no identified circumstance exists that attracts wolf-livestock conflict; and if the requester has complied with applicable laws and the conditions of any harassment or take permit.
In this situation, the livestock producers have maintained a significant human presence in the area of the depredations. Human presence is recognized as one of the best non-lethal methods to limit wolf-livestock conflict in dispersed grazing situations because wolves tend to avoid people. The producers coordinate between themselves, their employees, a county-employed range rider and a volunteer to ensure daily human presence coverage of the area. They increase human activity in areas when they see wolf sign, learn (through telemetry of a radio-collared wolf) that wolf activity is in close proximity to livestock, or when livestock show behavior that could indicate wolf presence.
The increased human presence has given the livestock producers and the range rider multiple opportunities to haze wolves that were chasing or in close proximity to livestock. On seven different occasions in June and July 2017, wolves have been hazed away from cattle by yelling, firing a pistol, shooting at, walking towards, and riding horseback towards the wolves.
Producers or their employees have also been spending nights near their cattle. Several producers are keeping their stock dogs inside horse trailers at night (as wolves are territorial and may attack dogs). Other producers are changing their typical grazing management practices including bunching cow/calf pairs in a herd (which enables cows to better protect themselves) or delaying pasture rotation to avoid putting cattle in an area where wolves have been.
While investigating reported livestock depredations, ODFW looks for attractants to wolves such as a bone pile or carcass that may contribute to the conflict. Livestock producers have also been watching for vulnerable livestock and carcasses in order to keep them from becoming wolf attractants and have been quick to remove them. Three injured or sick livestock were moved to home ranches for treatment and to protect them from predators. One dead domestic bull was removed from an area of concentrated cattle use (a pond). ODFW has not identified any circumstances or attractants that could promote wolf-livestock conflict in this area.
All these methods used by livestock producers have complied with Oregon’s applicable laws.
The Harl Butte Pack’s first depredation of livestock was confirmed in July of last year. ODFW received a request for lethal control in October 2016, after the fourth confirmed depredation. The department denied this request because most cattle were being removed from the large dispersed grazing pastures and out of the depredation area, so future depredation was unlikely.
The situation is different now because cattle will be grazing in the area on public lands until October and private lands into November, so ODFW expects the depredation will continue.
“Based on the level of non-lethal measures already being used and the fact that wolves are likely to be in the presence of cattle in this area for several more months, there is a substantial risk that depredation will continue or escalate,” said Brown.
ODFW intends to remove up to two adult uncollared wolves from the Harl Butte Pack by trapping or shooting from the ground or air. Once two wolves have been removed, the removal operation will stop. If two wolves have not been killed after two weeks, ODFW will assess whether removal efforts will continue another two weeks. If a new depredation occurs after the removal of two wolves, lethal control may resume.
About the Harl Butte Wolf Pack
The Harl Butte wolf pack may have formed and bred as early as 2015 though they were not documented until 2016. ODFW counted 10 wolves at the end of last year and observed seven wolves in the pack in March. One wolf in the pack, OR50, was collared in February 2017 and is believed to be the breeding male of the pack.
The pack is expected to have bred this year, and their weaned pups would now be about four months old, though the exact number of pups is unknown.