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Nash named wolf committee chairman
ENTERPRISE - When it comes to wolves, Rod Childers is better versed than any other member of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, but after seven years he is passing the mantle to fellow Wallowa County rancher -Todd Nash.
Though Childers hasn’t had any direct contact with wolves in his cattle, he’s put thousands of miles on his pickup truck to get to Salem and Portland for meetings, sometimes going to the Willamette Valley and back in a day.
Childers took over as the wolf committee chairman in 2006, the year following the sign-off of the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, and the same year Russ Morgan, the state’s wolf biologist, first located the Wenaha Pack in the remote regions of northern Wallowa County.
When it came to dispersing wolves from Idaho in Wallowa County, there were countless sightings.
“They told us there was B-300,” Childers said, “and she went to Wallowa, the Minam River country, Medical Springs and came back out here in 2009. We thought we had one or two and then a video caught 10 on camera that winter.”
By 2009, ranchers were noticing above normal losses in the Divide Country between Big Sheep Creek and the Imnaha River. In March 2010, 10 members of the Imnaha Pack were seen in a calving pen in the Wallowa Valley. The fear of wolf/livestock interaction became a reality.
The Imnaha Pack’s influence on Wallowa County has made national news. B-300, the breeding female of the pack, was a collared wolf who made her way into Oregon from Idaho. In February 2010 during a helicopter capture led by Morgan, B-300 was re-collared and dubbed OR-2. Two other wolves were collared at the same time including a black wolf outfitted with a GPS unit and named OR-4, the pack’s alpha male.
Two days before Karl Patton hazed the Imnaha Pack out of his calving pen just yards from his house, Nash was a member of a panel of people involved with wolves — ranchers, biologists and activists. He said he knew the Imnaha Pack was in the vicinity of his summer range, but at the time hadn’t had a confirmed wolf loss.
“I knew a pack had established itself right in the heart of my summer permit and I was told there were two — B-300 and sightings of a black wolf,” Nash said.
Last week, Nash talked about the early days of wolf evidence in his cattle.
“In the summer of 2009, I found a calf being fed on by coyotes. There was a lot of blood at the scene and I thought, ‘That’s a pretty big calf for coyotes to take down.’”
Later he said he thought maybe it had been a wolf kill and the coyotes were merely scavenging the remainder of the calf.
Since 2010, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists confirmed three head of Nash’s cattle to have been killed by wolves. One was considered a probable wolf kill and two were determined possible wolf kills.
When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife was managing wolves, their wolf biologist declared one of Nash’s dead calves to be a wolf kill.
“One investigation that was a ‘nothing,’ was found on Marr Flat. There have been many cattle that were never called in, both wounded and killed. If I called them in, I was pretty sure it was a wolf,” Nash said.
After several years of dealing with wolves on the range, now Nash will deal with them in the board room, as Childers has. Nash agreed to take over the position a year ago, but Curtis Martin, the Cattlemen’s president, asked Childers to stay on until a lawsuit was settled between Fish and Wildlife and environmentalists who sued to stop the state from killing wolves. The suit was settled in late May.
“Rod was way more up to speed on the lawsuit at last year’s convention, so Curtis asked him to stay on for another year until the lawsuit and the legislation were completed,” Nash said.
“And good old Todd said he’d do it,” Childers said.
The wolf plan had protocols in place when it came to handling wolves involved in chronic livestock kills, but Childers asked for a wolf or wolves to be killed after every livestock loss. The new rule states that a wolf or wolves may be killed after four head of livestock have been killed by the same pack in six months.
“The wolf plan states two kills by the same pack, but they always waited until they had four,” Childers said.
The main difference now is the six-month time limit and a 45-day limit in which the state must complete the hunt.
The last kill order before the lawsuit was triggered by one of Nash’s calves found killed by wolves on Sept. 22, 2011. Another of Nash’s calves was found dead Oct. 5, the day an appeals judge accepted a request for an injunction against the state killing wolves.
“Three of the four kill orders have been from depredation of Marr Flat Cattle (the ranch Nash manages),” Nash said.
Nash did travel to Salem in 2011 to testify in front of the Oregon House of Representatives Natural Resource Committee, again to Salem in 2013 to meet with the Fish and Wildlife Commission and gave presentations in California, Prineville, and Umatilla County.
“I do appreciate Todd doing this,” Childers, who has put in countless hours of work as the wolf committee chairman, said. “I think he’ll do a good job, and I think it’s important to keep some connectivity to this issue the wolf issue is still in Wallowa County.”