ODFW lays out new rules during meeting

By Bill Rautenstrauch, for The Observer February 28, 2014 10:28 am

More than 100 people pack Summerville church to talk wolf issues with state officials

SUMMERVILLE — More than 100 people showed up at the Summervillle Baptist Church Thursday night to hear Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials talk about new rules in the Oregon Wolf Management Plan, including provisions for shooting wolves caught in the act of harming livestock or working dogs.

ODFW Wolf Coordinator Russ Morgan said the new rules are in effect as the result of a settlement of a lawsuit brought against the state in October 2011 by Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The conservation groups filed the suit to stop the lethal taking of wolves by ODFW. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and several county governments, including Union, Wallowa and Baker counties, fought on the other side for livestock producers’ right to protect property. The suit was settled in May 2013.

Morgan said that as a result of the lawsuit, practical aspects of the wolf management plan are more cumbersome for the wildlife department and livestock producers. However, livestock producers now have some new leeway in protecting their herds from depredation.

“No state has had this much flexibility where the wolf population was below 100,” Morgan said. He said there are 64 wolves in Oregon presently, with the largest concentration and most depredations in Wallowa County.

Morgan said that except in parts of the state where the species is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act — areas west of Highways 395, 78 and 95 — wolves “caught in the act” of biting, wounding or killing livestock may be lawfully shot without a permit.

Some conditions apply, however. 

Producers, landowners or their agents must not have baited or taken other actions to attract wolves. After the attacking wolf has been shot, reasonable attempts must be made to preserve the scene. The wolf carcass should not be removed or disturbed. The kill must be reported to the ODFW within 24 hours.

Also, in situations of chronic depredation designated by ODFW, a producer may shoot a wolf that is chasing livestock. The no-bait rule applies, and in addition, the producer must have been using non-lethal measures in accordance with a Conflict Deterrence Plan to keep wolves away. 

Again, the producer is required to preserve the scene and not remove or disturb the wolf carcass, and report the incident to ODFW within 24 hours.

Also under the new rules, harassing or hazing wolves by means such as loud noises is legal if the wolf is chasing or testing livestock, or is in close proximity to livestock. The hazing action must not injure the wolf and pursuit is not allowed.

The rules require reporting of the hazing or harassment within 48 hours. When depredation does occur, ODFW can issue hazing permits that allow pursuit.

Under the wolf management plan rules, ODFW can exercise lethal control of wolves in situations of chronic depredation, though non-lethal deterrent measures are emphasized.

Producers aren’t required to take those non-lethal measures, but ODFW’s decision to intervene will be influenced by whether non-lethal measures have been tried. Producers should be prepared to prove they’ve taken the non-lethal steps, Morgan said.

“If there is a depredation, there needs to be documentation of what has been done,” Morgan said.

One of the main non-lethal measures discussed during Tuesday’s meeting was keeping wolf attractants like carcasses and bones off the property.

“There’s irrefutable evidence that if there’s dead things laying around, wolves will find them,” Morgan said. He said other non-lethal measures include fencing, fladry (a rope or electric wire with evenly spaced red flags), guard dogs and human presence.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, ODFW Biologist Leonard Erickson said a part of Union County has been designated an Area of Known Wolf Activity following wolf sightings that began in April 2013.

Erickson said the Mount Emily Pack, which ranges over a large area east of Elgin, now numbers four — three adults and one pup.

The large crowd on hand for the meeting was mostly civil, and limited comments to the topics covered by Morgan. Several comments centered on the problem of people who don’t keep their property free of wolf attractants and highway workers who allegedly dump wildlife carcasses along Phillips Creek.