W olves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Four years later a single wolf was sighted in Eastern Oregon. And then in 2011, OR7, a radio-collared wolf, made his presence known in the Southern Cascades. He probably set foot in eastern Douglas County on his travels.
Wolves are here to stay in Oregon and there is no getting around that they are going to settle in Douglas County. The mountains of Southern Oregon were a stronghold for wolves about a century ago so the animals do like the forested habitat that is here.
The Oregon Wolf Plan is in the process of being revisited and there should be compromise that includes all management tools in the revision. Those tools include trapping and hunting.
Wildlife biologists face a dilemma, or controversy, in how to manage the four-legged predator as its population throughout the state grows. But in reality, there won’t be many wolves, if any, in the Willamette Valley from Eugene north to Portland. That, however, is where most of the pressure will come to treat Oregon’s wolves with kid gloves.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have already received a letter from 19 state legislators that expressed opposition to making any changes to the Oregon Wolf Plan that would allow hunting and trapping of wolves. Those legislators are all from Western Oregon.
Those urban folks won’t have wolves in their backyards so they can envision the animal roaming a wild habitat. But out in rural Oregon, cattle and sheep ranchers are concerned about wolves because the predator is known to kill calves and lambs; hunters are concerned because there is no denying wolves prey on elk calves and on fawns.
For ranchers, any loss is a direct hit on their pocketbooks and livelihood. As of the end of 2016, there was confirmation that 141 livestock or domestic animals had been killed by wolves in Oregon since the late 1990s. There has also been confirmation of other livestock being injured by wolves. And what can’t easily be confirmed is the stress and weight loss that livestock suffer when pressured by wolves.
And the reimbursement program that has been set up in Oregon to compensate ranchers for livestock losses shouldn’t become a headache to use. If some wolf lovers want to contend every possible livestock kill or injury by wolves, ranchers may be more likely to practice the “shoot, shovel and shut up” routine.
Hunters are worried wolves will take a bite out of the big game populations – deer and elk – that they enjoy pursuing. Some Oregon areas already have depressed numbers of those two game animals, especially after this past long winter of snow and cold. If hunters become frustrated by an increased presence of wolves in future years, they’ll pass on buying licenses and tags and that is the money that goes into wildlife management of all animals.
So there needs to be a compromise. We shouldn’t say “wolves are totally off limits” to trapping and hunting and we shouldn’t say “kill ‘em all.” When estimates indicate there are enough breeding pairs and packs in the state to maintain a healthy population of the animal, then trapping and hunting should be used as management tools to keep wolf numbers under control.
Those tools are used to control other predators such as coyotes and cougars. Wolves should be managed the same way when their populations warrant it.