A different look at ranchers’ attitude toward wolves

Ranchers’ frustration has understandably grown as they’ve sustained increased loses from depredation and increased costs trying to prevent it.

Published on November 30, 2017 9:19AM

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Pat Matthews, left, uses shears on the carcass of a Sept. 29 wolf depredation on private land southeast of Joseph, Ore. The calf and land belong to Wallowa County commissioner and rancher Todd Nash. Cowboys Wyatt Warnock, center, and Clancy Warnock, right, who work for Nash, look on. Ranchers in the region have seen the number of wolf attacks increase over the years.

Steve Tool/EO Media Group

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Pat Matthews, left, uses shears on the carcass of a Sept. 29 wolf depredation on private land southeast of Joseph, Ore. The calf and land belong to Wallowa County commissioner and rancher Todd Nash. Cowboys Wyatt Warnock, center, and Clancy Warnock, right, who work for Nash, look on. Ranchers in the region have seen the number of wolf attacks increase over the years.

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Steve Pedery, conservation director for the Portland-based group Oregon Wild, told Capital Press last week that a “shoot, shovel and shut up” attitude toward wolves has taken hold in rural Oregon.

We understand why wolf advocates may feel a shifting of the tide. We see the same facts but have a different interpretation.

This year Oregon wildlife officials sanctioned the killing of five wolves because of depredation. This would have been unthinkable in earlier years of wolf management. Another was accidentally poisoned and a hunter shot a female wolf he said was threatening him. A couple have been found shot dead in apparent poaching incidents.

We don’t think attitudes in ranching country towards wolves have changed all that much since the predators migrated into the Northwest and their numbers multiplied. Ranchers were wary from the get-go. Their frustration has understandably grown as they’ve sustained increased loses from depredation and increased costs trying to prevent it.

“Shoot, shovel and shut up” has long been a common refrain wherever ranchers gather to talk about wolves. But at best it’s a wishful boast, not an operational wolf control strategy for even the most radical opponents.

“Smoke a pack a day” is a catchy slogan on a bumper sticker, but nothing more.

The gallows humor comes from being on the front line where wolf conservation meets wolf depredation. Ranchers have an economic interest in protecting their herd from wolves and other predators. They have skin in the game where wolf activists do not.

A local shop owner robbed of $1,200 worth of merchandise is seen in town as a victim while a rancher robbed by wolves of a $1,200 animal is seen as a complainer.

Wolves are here to stay. A couple of poachings and some ODFW-sanctioned killings don’t endanger them. Neither will giving ranchers realistic options to control wolves that are actively attacking their herds.



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