Home Back Issues July/August 2013 Wolf tourism in Eastern Oregon

Wolf tourism in Eastern Oregon

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Articles - July/August 2013
Monday, July 08, 2013
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Wolf tourism in Eastern Oregon
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Top: Rob Klavins is the founder and leader of Oregon Wild's Wolf Rendezvous tours.
Above: The "wolf highway," where wolves in the Imnaha pack have attracted tourists and attacked livestock.
Below: As the sign indicates, some ranchers believe wolves should not be allowed to roam in Eastern Oregon.
// Photos by Joseph Eastburn
0713 Wolf 07

Wolves used to range throughout North America. In 1754 one European explorer remarked seeing “wolves without numbers” as he trekked west from the Hudson Bay. Other 18th- and 19th-century pioneers, like Daniel Boone, described hearing a “howling wilderness.” The federal government and local cattlemen would generously remunerate bounty hunters — or anyone else — who killed wolves. Grover Myers, a land speculator throughout the Northwest, remembers that even during the Great Depression you could get from $2 to as much as $5 for killing a wolf. “A hamburger cost 10 cents, and you were lucky to make $1 a day,” 91-year-old Myers tells me. “That was good money back then. They’d cut off the ears and some skin off the face and bring ’em in,” he says.

The last wolf in Oregon was killed around the year 1947. By then these predators were almost extinct in most of North America. Although wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in the mid-1990s as part of a nationwide campaign to return wolves to the ecosystem, it wasn’t until just five years ago that wolves began reestablishing themselves in Eastern Oregon, breaking off from packs in Idaho.

There are now about half a dozen known packs of wolves in Oregon, all living in the Northeast part of the state: the Imnaha pack that Sykes and Rob Klavins from Oregon Wild are tracking this May morning in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest; the Snake River, Wenaha, Umatilla and Minam River packs inside the Eagle Cap Wilderness; the Walla Walla pack; and a couple other pairs that may not yet have had pups.

In 2005 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife developed a set of rules (the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan) to ensure wolf recovery while addressing concerns of the livestock industry. Ever since, there has been conflict over these rules, with stakeholders introducing new legislation to, for example, allow people to kill wolves that come within 500 feet of a home. This spring conservation groups, ranchers and state officials have been negotiating to find a way to balance the protection of both wolves and livestock. In May 2013 a compromise was reached, and in June lawmakers approved a bill that requires implementation of nonlethal dissuasion tactics but allows ranchers and state agents to kill wolves if those efforts fail.

Given the ruckus the wolves have been causing in the Oregon legislature and on social media — one Facebook group started by ranchers, Oregon Wolf Education, shows a snarling wolf baring its fangs next to a big-eyed spotted fawn and a sign that reads “Private Property Rights” — it’s a bit surprising to learn there are fewer than 50 confirmed wolves in the entire state. There are more than 600 wild wolves in Montana and more than 8,000 in Alaska. Though you may hear them howl and see signs of them in the wild, it is very unlikely you’ll see an Oregon wolf.

The biggest issue is the same one faced by the Europeans who were settling North America’s howling wilderness two centuries ago: Wolves are opportunistic pack hunters and sometimes surround and kill calves, sheep and other livestock. Though the percentage of livestock lost to wolves is small (less than 1%, according to state and federal statistics), and ranchers in Eastern Oregon who lose livestock or working dogs from wolf kills are financially compensated by the state for their losses, that money is often slow in coming. It can take up to a year, says Sykes, who is also a member of the Wallowa County Wolf Compensation Committee.

Another difficulty is that forensic evidence must be collected confirming the animal was killed by a wolf. Ranchers who graze their cattle unattended on public lands often cannot be compensated because they cannot prove their losses were due to wolves.

“Wolves are large predators, and they are very adept at killing what they need to stay alive. They are bound to kill cattle,” says Dennis Sheehy, a 66-year-old rancher in Wallowa. Sheehy tells me the wolves cause stress in the area, both to the ranchers themselves and their cow-calf pairs, and that his business has lost cattle to wolves. “You can do certain things to mitigate some of the impact. But if you’re a livestock man, you’re going to lose some of your livestock to the wolves.”



 

Comments   

 
Guest
-36 #1 RE: Wolf tourism in Eastern OregonGuest 2013-07-09 18:35:21
If these people want to watch wolves then they can take them into their backyards to watch them. The wolves are destructive in areas that have no defense as they have been wolf-free for a long time. If the wolves are meant to re-populate they will do so naturally, without being transplanted.
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Guest
+18 #2 Wolf TourismGuest 2013-07-09 19:22:08
You mean like they are now? No wolves have been transplanted to Eastern Oregon.
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Guest
-24 #3 RE: Wolf tourism in Eastern OregonGuest 2013-07-09 21:10:50
I stand corrected. These wolves were transplanted into Idaho and have moved into Oregon. If they had not been transplanted into Idaho there wouldn't be a problem. Livestock and wildlife - deer, elk and sheep populations have suffered greatly due to the wolf population.
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Guest
+26 #4 Guest 2Guest 2013-07-09 21:43:26
...Except that they were already making there way back into NW Montana on their own before they were reintroduced... and the wolves in WA have made their way back on their own.

It was only a matter of time before wolves made their way back to Oregon with or without help. In any case, I really don't think this is the right forum for debating the nuances of wolf populations.

I for one am excited I don't have to get in an airplane or drive 16 hours to go to Yellowstone or Denali. I'm looking forward to a trip to Wallowa County. I'll be sure to check out Barking Mad Farm. It would be great to see a list of businesses in the area that support wolves and other native wildlife. That's where I'd spend my money.
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Guest
+20 #5 Wolf tourismGuest 2013-07-09 22:49:07
I think its great.........t he wolves were here longer before humans wiped them out.........may be you should move somewhere where YOU can be inside the fence and safe:)
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Guest
+16 #6 Understanding WolvesGuest 2013-07-09 23:50:15
I recommend that anyone wanting to truly know about wolves and their culture, read the book "Wolves at my Door". Too often we kill before we think..... and in that act loose what is important in keeping our eco system in balance. I love the ingenious way in which Oregon people keep reinventing themselves in ways that harmonize with nature. I hope the wolf tourism is a resounding success!
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Guest
-6 #7 UnNatural.....Guest 2013-07-10 00:07:24
If there were 10 million Native Americans here when whiteman arrived eating animals for food and clothing .....isn't places like Yellowstone "unnatural" isn't a key component of the eco-system missing?
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Guest
+24 #8 Taz AlagoGuest 2013-07-10 00:31:49
This is the most carefully researched and written article I have read on Oregon wolves and it is remarkable that it appears in a business publication. Being familiar with Wallowa County, I can say the author got the general local tone on the wolf issue dead on, and it's very encouraging that the area can benefit from wolves both ecologically and economically.
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Guest
+8 #9 buffalo manGuest 2013-07-10 03:17:51
Great article !!! If the cattle people would switch to the long surviving, crafty, smarter buffalo, losses would probably go down, and profits go up. Would be happy to help farmers convert to "tatanka."
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Guest
+5 #10 ValueGuest 2013-07-10 20:23:48
Just a small point to ponder while we read this insighful article - while various groups advocate for their interests, they place their own, extrinsic values on wolves. Do wolves no longer have an intrinsic value to them? There is value in just being a wolf, or any part of the earth for that matter. Not trying to incite any argumnents here, just commenting.
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Guest
+2 #11 RE: Wolf tourism in Eastern OregonGuest 2013-07-10 21:04:36
Can anyone point to the recent scientific findings on a study done in Oregon that shows that when wolf populations are destroyed or greatly reduced, the killings of farm animals goes up? I read it but somehow did not keep the reference.
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Guest
+7 #12 Livestock lossesGuest 2013-07-10 22:28:45
Here is a news article on the experience in Oregon, and in other states, re: killing of wolves increasing livestock losses.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/02/no-kill-wolf-oregon/1958843/
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Guest
+3 #13 savethewolvesGuest 2013-07-26 03:35:24
Wolves were here first. Not the livestock owners or subdivisions, etc. Livestock owners could have used fencing and livestock guardian dogs for years to coexist with wildlife. Homeowners can use fencing too. The idea that humans have the right to get rid of apex predators who keep a balance in nature is so selfish, short-sighted and frankly pretty stupid. Nature always reminds us when we screw with nature and remove a necessary part of it. Predator and prey have lived together just fine and kept a balance in nature until we came along. People can co-exist with wildlife and make a living if they care about anything other than their own selves. Tourism also brings in a lot of money. People want to see the wolves, the bears, the mountain lions, etc and not the ranchers ruining the land. Yes, we need to make a living but we need the wildlife too and the fencing and the livestock guardian dogs and non animal abusive methods of hunting are all ways to co-exist with nature and wildlife. There is no need for trapping or any other method of hunting that makes the animal suffer to make it easier to kill it. The kill shot works just fine and is only necessary with an overpopulation of prey animals caused by short-sighted people who think predators don't belong in the wild. The predators are not the problem but humans sure are.
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Guest
+3 #14 enoughroom4allGuest 2013-07-31 21:05:47
Having lived within a reintroduced wolf population for 25+ years I can attest to the ability of prey populations to adjust to the presence of a new (long missing) predator. They suffer higher loss in the beginning but quickly (1-2 generations) adapt behavior to avoid the predator during birthing, resting and feeding. Similar behavioral changes can be seen every fall when the gun season opens and the deer quickly go night active. Reported hunter deer harvest in the wolf recovery area has been steadily increasing consistent with the rest of the state for decades. Surely it is within our ability and ethical responsibility as the "chosen" species to adjust our livestock and pet ownership behavior as well. Wolves are opportunists, just make your animals NOT the easiest choice available.
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Guest
-4 #15 RE: Wolf tourism in Eastern OregonGuest 2013-08-14 19:38:45
When one these liberal fools that venture out to Eastern Oregon for "wolf tourism" is attacked or killed by one of these predators, they will change thier tune! Our ancestors eradicated these predators for a good reason.
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Guest
-1 #16 PerspectiveGuest 2013-08-16 19:01:35
Tri-Met area voters need a reality check. Until ODFW institutes a policy of capturing cougars and wolves then releasing them into Washington County, the rest of the state will remain terrorized by left-wing voters and their atrocious lack of foresight. A few weeks of dealing with the fruits of their misguided votes would have Washington County residents clamoring for a special election to right their wrongs.
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Guest
-1 #17 RE: Wolf tourism in Eastern OregonGuest 2013-08-16 20:10:46
Please take the time to learn about wolves and their culture.... finding ways to live in balance with nature is an honoring of the earth and all creatures who live here. A great book is "Wolves at Our Door by the Duetchers who spent several years living in close proximity too wolves and as educated naturalists recorded their behaviors etc.... no attacks or even close misses! All of the fear of wild animals is what has brought us to a place of having only 10% of our animal species still alive. Let's learn to live with the rest.... this is their home too.
!
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Guest
0 #18 RE: Wolf tourism in Eastern OregonGuest 2014-01-14 22:38:00
I think all the people against helping the wolves would learn a lot from the loss of the Yellowstone wolves. There was a huge debate over their impact so they were shoo'd out of the park. Eventually, teh deer and elk population got so out of hand that the trees and plant life near the ground were being practically stripped due to over breeding. There was a huge tic problem that began to develop on top of it all.
It's a very important topic because it shows us just how important natures already created checks and balances are. Without the wolves the entire park suffered drastically. We can learn a lot from the mistakes made at Yellowstone.
If you are interested here is a scholarly article discussing the proposal to reintroduce the wolves.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08941928909380693#.UtW7OfRDsqg
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