Wallowa Wolf Kills
By: Angie Dietrich, Wallowa Valley Online
While everyone else enjoyed a pleasant extended Thanksgiving Day weekend, three Zumwalt area ranchers lost cows to the Imnaha wolf pack in two separate attacks between Thursday and Friday; the third attack occurred at an unknown date before that.
ODFW confirmed two of the three on Nov. 28. Michelle Dennehy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) spokesperson said wolves were determined responsible in both incidents. The third cow was not reported to ODFW by the rancher since her death occurred too long ago.
Wallowa Valley Online was told by the local rancher that they are convinced that it was a wolf attack due to the fact that the pregnant cow was attacked to kill then consume her unborn fetus only. The mother cow itself was left behind.
The GPS tracking collar on the alpha male of the Imnaha-0 OR-4, indicated that he was in the area at the suspected time of the attacks. The two ranchers were notified by ODFW of the wolf’s location. The cows were killed while grazing in privately owned land on the Zumwalt Prairie about 25 miles east of Eggleson Corner.
Zumwalt Rancher Ketscher received a text message from ODFW notifying them that wolves were near their ranching operations on Friday morning. The report came as no surprise to the Ketschers because they could hear the wolves howling that morning.
Not long after that message from ODFW, Ketscher’s father-in-law, Randy Warner, followed wolf tracks to the carcass of one of the Ketschers’ cows. Ketscher estimated that the wolves ate less than five pounds of meat off the cow before leaving the carcass. The wolves attacked the open (not pregnant) cow biting through the vulva while the animal was still alive. When they found no fetus they left the cow behind. The site of the wolf attack was less than one-third of a mile from the Ketschers’ house.
Charity told WVO how frustrating and scary it is to let her kids and dogs outside by themselves on their own private property.
The second cow confirmed killed by wolves was a bred heifer, found about three miles east of the Ketschers, belonging to Gaylon Dawson on private property owned by Bob Lathrop. According to WVO sources, the wolves attacked the pregnant cow only to extract the unborn fetus while the animal was still alive and leaving the body of the mother cow behind .
The wolves responsible for the latest attacks on livestock had already been identified by ODFW as chronic livestock depredation offenders with the latest on October 8, and Oct 25. ODFW issued an order in late September to kill two members of the Imnaha pack in Wallowa County, including the alpha male, after confirming by radio tracking collar data that the pack was responsible for another cattle kill in Wallowa County.
These latest two cases of cattle depredation by the Imnaha pack come as the court has still not decided to either go ahead with the kill order of the suspect wolves, or to halt the killing of the wolves by extending the stay indefinitely allowing the Imnaha pack to keep on killing livestock without repercussion.
The Oregon Court of Appeals stopped the killing of the wolves on Oct. 5 after three wildlife advocacy groups filed for and were granted a stay on the kill order. Conservation groups sued to challenge the killing, arguing the Oregon Wolf Management Plan, which allows wolves to be killed to reduce livestock attacks, does not comply with the state Endangered Species Act. While federal Endangered Species Act protection has been lifted for wolves in Eastern Oregon, the state act still covers them. The court extended the stay order Nov. 15.
The court found that while ranchers will likely suffer losses if the wolves aren’t killed, the Legislature has enacted a law to pay them for those losses.
The passed legislation is under review, probably until early 2012; no funding and payouts will be available until then.
Oregon Cattlemen’s Association President Bill Hoyt said they were frustrated at the ruling.
“They had confirmed kills on the same ranch over a period of time and by the same pack,” he said. “The plan calls for after having multiple confirmed kills, they will take lethal control. That’s what the plan says”
“We didn’t like the plan to begin with. But we are learning to live with it. Now, all of a sudden we can’t even do that.”
Conservation groups have shown that killing the two wolves will cause irreparable harm to the Imnaha pack, and may cause irreparable harm to the reestablishment of wolves in Oregon in general, the court added.
Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild, and other wolf supporters have stated before that it should be enough that ranchers get compensated for their loss, thus wolves should not be lethally removed just because they keep on killing livestock.
Ranchers have said over and over again, that a check neither replaces the animals killed, nor does it make up for the countless hours of hard work and research to raise cattle in a healthy environment.
According to outside sources, there are more than 30 wolves in Oregon outside the Imnaha pack. The actual numbers cannot be verified, because most of the wolves are not collared. Other sources say more than one hundred.
In its Nov. 15 extension, the court required the wildlife advocacy groups requesting the stay to post $5,000 security – money to compensate ranchers for any losses of livestock to wolves while the case is pending.
The Ketschers say that after their cow was confirmed as a wolf kill, they were told that they would probably qualify for a compensation payment out of that $5,000 security payment paid by conservation groups while the case is pending .