With wolf populations in Southern Oregon on the rise, area ranchers are starting to deal with some of the same issues ranchers in Northern Oregon have dealt with since the wolves were reintroduced to the Pacific Northwest.
However, pro-wolf advocates say it’s too early to delist wolves in the western part of the state and the ranchers’ complaints are overblown.
Eric Fernandez of Oregon Wild said that thousands of cows a year die of natural causes, including cold weather and simply getting lost, compared to the roughly 60 lost to wolves. Ranchers are also reimbursed by the state when they lose cattle to wolves, according to Fernandez.
While there were four cows killed in Klamath County last year, no cows were killed this season, and both wolf advocates and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said wolf populations are still recovering and it is too early to consider delisting in the western part of the state.
“We’re in a recovery phase where we’re trying to grow the population,” said John Stephenson of Oregon Fish and Wildlife in Bend, “but we’re not going to stay in that phase forever. We’ll transition as the population reaches kind of the management levels we want it at.”
This is similar to how wolf population were handled in the rocky mountains and Idaho, according to Stephenson.
The state is currently considering alterations to its current wolf management plan, but advocates say it’s too early to consider hunting as a viable way to control wolf populations.
“With 112 wolves in Oregon I think it’s way too early to even start thinking about having a hunt,” said Fernandez. “Imagine if we had 112 salmon left in Oregon or 112 elk or 112 bald eagles, we’d be in serious panic mode.”
Despite push back from wolf advocates, Stephenson said the wolf populations are getting closer to the point that they will be delisted, despite recent issues with some of the collared wolves being killed by poachers.
Central Oregon Daily’s Brian Jennings continues to look into the issue of wolves in Oregon for this week’s Great Outdoors, sponsored by Camp Abbot Trading Company in Sunriver.