CANYONVILLE, Ore. — Paul Wolf is taking a proactive approach to the increasing presence of wolves in southwestern Oregon.
Wolf is the Southwest District Supervisor for Wildlife Services, a program whose mission “is to provide federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to co-exist.”
During a presentation at last month’s Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s mid-year conference, Wolf emphasized the importance of counties setting up wolf advisory committees. Those groups can approve funds for the reimbursement of livestock loss to wolves, can approve funds to help with the purchase and implementation of non-lethal methods to help keep predators away from livestock and can provide funding for education and outreach regarding wolves.
“I see some tough struggles for all of you,” Wolf said to the gathering of ranchers. “Your state has decided it wants wolves. I want to provide good public service when it comes to wolves. There is no such thing as a magic bullet with the non-lethal methods, but those are the things we have to work with at this time.”
He also stressed that it is important for livestock owners who suspect a wolf attack on their animals to invite Wildlife Services specialists/trappers to the site in addition to representatives from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We’re wildlife specialists and we want to be there,” Wolf said of the trappers who work in southwest Oregon. “We need to see what has happened. ODFW and federal Fish and Wildlife have the final decision on confirming whether it’s a wolf attack or not, but we want to be there. We are wildlife damage specialists and it’s really important for us to have a conversation with the producers at those depredation sites.”
Conversation is underway to have more of a collaborative effort by the agencies in determining the details at those sites.
David Williams, the Oregon state director for Wildlife Services, would like to see that type of effort.
“We want to be the resource that helps ODFW recognize what is going on at a site, to help the wildlife managers make the decision,” Williams said.
Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties are all in different stages of establishing wolf advisory committees. The committees are comprised of seven members who each serve a four-year term. The membership consists of one county commissioner, two members who own or manage livestock, two members who support wolf conservation or coexistence with wolves and two members with business interests in the county.
The committees can apply for funding from the Oregon Department of Agriculture for the purchase of non-lethal tools.
The Jackson and Klamath county committees were established a few years ago. The Douglas County committee was formed in the last year. The Coos, Curry and Josephine committees are still getting organized.
“It’s important for those folks to be ready for wolves,” Wolf said of the committees. “The Rogue Pack is traveling between Jackson and Klamath counties and now the Indigo group has been confirmed in both Douglas and Lane counties.”
Other non-lethal methods include removing both livestock and wildlife bone piles from property near livestock, installing inflatable tube characters, putting guard dogs in with livestock and range riding to provide a consistent human presence. Wolf admitted, however, that all these tools may work, but will eventually lose their effectiveness as wolves adapt to them. He added that guard dogs can be effective, but can also be looked at like any other animal and can be preyed on and killed by wolves.
Workshops focused on the use of non-lethal methods, providing livestock owners with information and advice, have been held in Oregon since 2014. Statewide workshops will be scheduled in the future with one being planned in Jackson County for later this year.
To help with education, outreach and the use of non-lethal methods, a non-lethal specialist will begin working for Wildlife Services later this year. Funding for that position is being provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and the county wolf advisory committees.