ODFW confirms wolf depredation
Last updated 5/23/2023 at 4:56pm
Sisters Country is the scene of the first livestock loss to wolves in Deschutes County.
ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife) has for the first time confirmed wolf depredation in the county, as a rancher in the Lower Bridge area lost a steer to the wolves known as the Metolius pair.
Two steers were lost, most likely to wolves, in late March, as reported by The Nugget on April 19, but that loss was not confirmed.
Aaron Bott, ODFW wolf biologist for Central Oregon, confirmed the loss May 17.
When we asked how he could be certain it was the Metolius pair, Bott said, "The rancher has wildlife cameras on his property and I know these wolves well. It was clearly them.
"The rancher wishes to remain anonymous so as not to create any hysteria," Bott added.
"The Metolius wolves are two wolves that have been in the area for about two years," ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. The Metolius pair was first identified August 2021 and counted in the 2021 annual state count. The two, not designated as a mating pair, were documented in 2022. No pups were observed.
Bott told The Nugget that the two could in fact be a mating pair. Though there were no pups sighted in 2022, they could have reproduced this year. If so, the pups would still be in their den with both parents bringing them food.
ODFW reports weekly on wolf activity. Since May 9, nine losses have been posted statewide. For the entire year of 2022, ODFW confirmed 76 incidents of wolf-livestock depredation after 121 investigations, documenting the death of 71 livestock animals and three working dogs. The majority (85 percent) occurred on private land.
Six wolves were lethally removed in response to chronic depredation in 2022.
With the return of gray wolves to Oregon, conflicts with livestock and working dogs have occurred. As in other western states with wolf populations, some livestock producers will be affected financially due to direct losses of livestock from wolf depredations.
In 2011, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 3560, which directed the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to establish and implement a Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance Grant Program. Through this program, ODA provides pass-through grants to counties to establish and implement county wolf depredation compensation programs of their own, under which the following apply.
Compensation can be paid to persons for livestock or working dogs killed or injured due to wolf depredation. Financial assistance can be provided to persons who implement livestock management and/or nonlethal wolf deterrent techniques designed to discourage wolf depredation of livestock.
The Lower Bridge rancher's steer was born last fall, and was not at mature weight of around 1,000 pounds.
Research suggests that when wolves attack livestock, they focus on the animals that are easiest to kill. Wolves rarely attack adult cattle and horses. They tend to prey more on sheep, calves, goats, and yearling cattle.
It is uncertain whether the rancher will make a claim.
Deschutes County only recently established its Wolf Depredation Compensation and Finance Assistance Committee, and its first meeting is scheduled for June 26. The committee includes a representation of Sisters Country residents. Of the two mandated appointees representing supporters in defense of wolves, one is Sarahlee Lawrence, co-owner of Rainshadow Organics, near where the depredation occurred.
One of the appointees representing producers or managers of livestock is Johnny Leason, owner of Pineridge Hay & Cattle in Cloverdale. Phil Chang is the designated county commissioner on the seven-person committee.
By Oregon statute, the Wolf Committee will be made up of one county commissioner, two members who own or manage livestock, and two members who support wolf conservation or coexistence with wolves. The County advisory committee, once established by the County, shall then agree upon two county business representatives. The bill offered no guidance on what constitutes a "business representative."
Donna Harris, a retired small animal veterinarian from Fall River, finds her appointment a dream come true.
"I can continue my passion and deep empathy for wild carnivores like cougars and wolves," she said. "This is a great way to express my admiration for these magnificent animals."
Harris is a member of Wolf Welcome Committee based in Sisters, a 100- strong volunteer organization. Upon hearing of the depredation, Susan Prince of the Welcome Committee said: "We are very pleased to learn that there are ranchers in the Lower Bridge area who appreciate our native wildlife and are eager to explore using nonlethal protections for their livestock. This bodes well for everyone involved."
ODFW's Dennehy contacted area ranchers and the Deschutes County Farm Bureau to alert them, and offered encouragement to remove attractants. She offered the agency's assistance in developing non-lethal ways to minimize further losses.