Wolves test ranchers' patience in Wallowa County
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Cattleman Rod Childers told lawmakers that Wallowa County ranchers' patience is wearing thin as one of the state's six wolf packs continues to kill livestock in the county and cause "irreparable damage" to some ranch families.
But, he said, ranchers haven't resorted to killing wolves.
"Even though our patience is running thin out there -- we've had depredations for over three years now -- none of us have taken a wolf," Childers said.
Childers testified April 16 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in support of a bill that would relax "take" restrictions on ranchers who encounter wolves.
House Bill 3452 would allow what is known as "permit-less take" in cases where ranchers catch a wolf "attacking, harassing ... or are reasonably certain" a wolf will attack livestock.
Under current law, ranchers must obtain a permit from the state to kill a wolf, and then can only do so if catching a wolf in the act of attacking livestock.
Permits are issued only in cases where ranchers have suffered damage and taken nonlethal measures to try to prevent additional depredation.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued more than 70 take permits over the past three years, Childers said.
"Out of all of those permits, nobody has ever caught a wolf in the act of actually biting," Childers said.
"We simply want to keep our livestock alive and out of harm's way," Childers said in urging lawmakers to support the bill. "We need all the tools to be available for varying circumstances."
Childers' testimony was in contrast to testimony from Rob Klavins of the environmental group Oregon Wild, who said he strongly opposed the bill.
"It goes far beyond what the wolf plan contemplated and could allow poaching to go unpunished," Klavin said.
"We prefer to focus on preventing conflict and getting back to the wolf plan we thought we had in 2005," Klavin said.
The committee took no action on the bill. It is reconvening at 6 p.m. April 16.