Expert warns against wolf 'hysteria'
Wolves often blamed for unexplained livestock deaths
By TIM HEARDEN
YREKA, Calif. -- A retired federal wildlife agent who is a leading authority on wolves in the West decries the "hysteria" and "sensationalism" over the animal among livestock producers.
Carter Niemeyer, a former trapper who was involved in reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, said wolf kills represent a tiny fraction of the deaths of cattle and other livestock on razing land.
The signature of their kills is unique. Wolves typically attack calves or yearlings from the sides or the rear and inflict crushing wounds under the front shoulder and hind legs, Niemeyer said.
However, wolves often get blamed for animal deaths that ranchers or other landowners can't explain, he said.
"A lot of people don't understand wolves. People are scared of them. Some people hate them," Niemeyer, 65, told more than 100 people at the Best Western Miners Inn here May 10. He added people's sensitivities can sometimes lead to wildlife management "by anecdote."
"They're here," he said. "You're going to have to live with them. It's not a threat, it's just the way it is. An act of Congress brought them here, and it would take another act of Congress to make them go away."
Niemeyer was speaking at an event organized by the Siskiyou County agriculture department. Agriculture commissioner Patrick Griffin said he wanted the expert to clear up "misconceptions" that had arisen since the arrival of OR-7, the first known gray wolf to enter California in more than 80 years.
"There were a lot of concerns expressed by people," Griffin said. "I thought about it a while and thought, 'How can we address this and raise some awareness about this?'"
The author of "Wolfer: A Memoir," Niemeyer began his career as a wildlife trapper and predator-killer right out of graduate school at Iowa State University in 1973. By 1990, he was the U.S. government's full-time expert on wolves, investigating and mitigating wolf problems in Montana. Most of the time, his field investigations found wolves were not to blame for kills.
He left that job in 2000 to oversee wolf recovery for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was one of the scientists who captured wolves in Canada and relocated them in Yellowstone and the central Idaho wilderness. Later, while working for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, he once put a radio collar on the mother of OR-7, he told his audience.
His appearance in Siskiyou County was timely. This week, a local Grange asked the Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance that would ban the animal. The ordinance, crafted by cattleman Leo Bergeron, said any wolves that enter the county would "be destroyed."
"If you establish an ordinance like that, the thing you've got to consider is, how does it mix with federal and state law" that protect the wolf, Niemeyer said in an interview. "An ordinance to keep an animal out of the county is a tall order in itself ... (Wolves are) awfully hard to keep track of."
Some counties in Idaho and Montana have discussed similar ordinances, recognizing they would be merely symbolic, he said.
Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture: http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/AG/ag.aspx
Carter Niemeyer - Wolfer: http://www.carterniemeyer.com/Wolfer/Carter_Niemeyer_-_Wolfer.html