Perspectives: A rancher's view on wolves

of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Left to right, Oregon Department of Fish and Game District Biologist Vic Coggins, Rod Childers, wolf committee chairman for the Oregon CattlemenÕs Association, and Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services wolf hunter Marlyn Riggs confirm a wolf kill of a calf as the mother cow stands nearby.

Kerry Tienhaara is an Upper Prairie Creek rancher, who along with her husband and family raise cattle and hay. Their ranch is east of Joseph, Ore.

Q What are your personal experiences with wolves?

A On May 30, 2010, we found a dead calf on our ranch right over there (pointing to an area barely 700 feet from her house). It was not a normal looking dead calf; it was hollowed out and I've never seen that.

We called Sheriff (Fred) Steen, Vic Coggins of ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Marlyn Riggs of (USDA) Wildlife Services and they came and investigated and said it was a wolf kill.

On five different occasions we've seen wolves on our property in the daytime. One of those times, a wolf was killing a fawn. Another time, my husband and I were irrigating and we watched a wolf stalking a deer. When it saw us it disappeared. They're really big, and you can't mistake them for a coyote. OR-4 spent three-plus days hanging out on Mount Howard and the south end of the moraine. ... That is why we have our cows close to the house. But, we can't keep them there forever.

A couple months after our calf was killed, we had a 6-week old calf that was attacked. When we found her she had a really bad infection on her belly, her tail was nearly bitten off and her front knee was crushed -- classic wolf attack. Our youngest daughter doctored the calf for months. We figure a young wolf was attacking the calf and the herd must have broken it up. The mother cow just lost it though, and we eventually had to sell her because she went berserk. Another result of loss due to wolf attacks no one addresses, some cows become unmanageable and dangerous.

Q What have you done to get personally involved in the wolf issue?

A After Karl Patton lost his two pregnant cows in February, a couple weeks from calving, the neighbors around here started talking and asking what we could do. It was at that point that the neighbors Lori Schaafsma, Ramona Phillips, Lori Butterfield, Connie Dunham and I decided to form a group to start to educate people on the reality of wolves in Wallowa County. We wanted to get the truth out as opposed to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan's "feel good existence value" of the wolves' presence. You don't have to go to Portland to find people who don't understand the reality of what the wolves are doing; you can find them on Main Street, Joseph.

So, we hired a videographer, Mark Bales, who spent days out filming the wolves and doing interviews. He went to Salem too during the wolf hearings. And, he filmed investigations. He took a lot of footage showing how close the wolves are to our homes and herds.

We noticed when OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) came to do a story on the wolves that you never really get the sense of how close they are to Joseph and that this is happening on private property. We're not out in the wilderness. As the crow flies we're only a mile from Wallowa Lake.

In reality, wolves are invading grazing lands on private property and public grazing allotments that are legally and lawfully used and paid for by permit holders.

Q What do you think about the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan?

A I think it is prejudiced against people's right to protect their private property. It's prejudiced against not only livestock producers but the native wildlife population, which the ODFW is mandated to protect. Those who enjoy hunting are also on the losing end. Everyone should read the plan. It reads more like a people management plan than a plan to manage wolves.

It's unrealistic to think you can manage wolves. Wolves are killing, maiming and wasting livestock on private property. Predators don't recognize private property. Look at how few wolves we have in this county and how much trouble they've caused. It's unrealistic to force ranchers to absorb these losses.

It's not just about being compensated for the livestock that are killed. It's about our breeding stock. It's about the animals that lose weight and abort their calves. It's about our own personal loss, the stress and worry. We can't rest easy at night. It's hard enough farming and ranching and doubly hard to grasp that this is being done intentionally.

Q Do you think there's a place for wolves in Wallowa County?

A No. As stated in the Oregon Wolf Plan, Oregon was not included in the so-called "recovery" because it doesn't have enough suitable habitat for wolves. The Canadian gray wolf is a nonindigenous species, and shouldn't be allowed to occupy Wallowa County. We don't hate the wolves. We do disagree with using "wolf recovery" as a cover to run livestock producers off private and public land.

-- East Oregonian Publishing Group

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