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The Observer Paper 11/26/14

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Home arrow Opinion arrow Welcoming wolves

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Welcoming wolves

Jim Ward’s op-ed on wolves is on the facetious side.

He loves wolves but can only tolerate them in a theme-park setting like Yellowstone National Park.

He loves their howls but says Oregonians can only hear them if they make the Yellowstone tour. He knows wolves have restored much of the damaged Yellowstone’s eco-system but denies Oregon the same recovery, and feels our 35 million acres of public land, half the state, isn’t enough for wolves.

By comparison, Minnesota has about 3,000 wolves (a stable population for the last decade) on 22 million acres in a much more populous area.

Admitting that wolves and their ungulate prey keep each other healthy, Mr. Ward says hunters can now do that. But they don’t.

Hunters take the healthiest and biggest by choice. Who’s going to fill their tag with an emaciated sick elk? Wolves on the other hand take the weak –-- it’s the easiest and least risky choice.

Wolves cull the barren and geriatric cows and does, the non-performing bulls and bucks. Wolves will move ungulates around so they don’t overgraze places like the Zumwalt Prairie, where the ODFW pays hazers to move them, something that goes on throughout Oregon.

Non-game species will prosper, not diminish, around wolves because of the riparian and aspen recovery they encourage (something that is now poorly attempted by fence enclosures at taxpayer expense) and by providing food to the many scavenging birds and beasts.

The 2009-11 ODFW budget was $262,400,000. The ODFW wolf budget for the same period was .3% of that, $871,000.

A healthy wolf population can save money by increasing biodiversity without the need for expensive fences and constant riparian repair, and decrease the need for hazing.

Wolf management funds in future could be augmented from targeted sources such as tax check-offs and wolf license plates.

Wolves are not being “forced” on us as Mr. Ward says. They are welcomed by the majority of Oregonians. Some Oregon livestock operators, comprising less than 1 percent of Oregon’s people, are trying to force on us the removal of wolves yet again, as they wrongly and brutally did in the last century.

Mr. Ward wonders if wolves will ever be “happy” here. Well, they’ll be as happy as any wild animal –-- they all have to dodge bullets, traps, poisons, wildlife biologists and vehicles.

And they are hardly “skulking beasts.” They live in at least four healthy packs and, if Mr. Ward has seen them, as I have, he knows they are wary but confident as all wolves are.

Ranching in wolf country means change, but it doesn’t mean anybody’s going out of business, as even the
president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association has said.

Nobody’s daughter, grandson, husband or aunt will have to “get out of the way” for wolves.

Most Oregonians welcome the wolf and are glad to see a wrong righted, a vanished and valuable spirit returned to us.

 

Wally Sykes is co-founder of NE Oregon Ecosystems and a member of the Wallowa County Wolf Compensation Committee. He lives in Joseph.

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