To the Editor:
The Chieftain painted only part of the picture in its recent coverage of Wallowa County wolves. Id like to fill in some blank spaces.
Since wolves came to this county, ways of dealing with attacks and compensation have evolved. Now Oregon is setting the gold standard for state wolf compensation programs and non-lethal deterrents. Ranchers have benefited from the state-funded program in many ways: rather than negotiating claimed losses with Defenders of Wildlife, which paid compensation until September 2011, they now set the values themselves, and the fund is administered by their own community; whereas previously probable losses were compensated at 50 percent of market value, now both probable and confirmed losses are paid at 100 percent; and for the first time, claims for stock with no visible injuries, but likelihood of physical trauma resulting from being chased or harassed, are compensated, and at the same rate as stock with verified wounds.
State funds ($25,000 for Wallowa County in 2012) for purchase and deployment of non-lethal wolf deterrents, and their widespread use, have significantly reduced financial loss to area stockmen. After compensation of over $19,000 to Wallowa County ranchers for 2011 losses, which included payments from both Defenders of Wildlife and Oregon taxpayers, claims fell to $5,396 for 2012, a reduction of over 70 percent. During the same period, the actual number of Wallowa County wolf attacks fell by 20 percent and the number killed by 60 percent. This despite an increase in the local wolf population. No stock has been attacked when protected by turbo-fladry (flagged, electrified fencing) or RAG (radio-activated guard) boxes, and two range riders haze wolves on the range. Nearly all the dollars spent on non-lethal equipment and labor has been spent locally.
The ODFW continues to provide non-lethal tools and help with tasks such as removing bone piles and wolf monitoring.
Outside of the wolf compensation program, and controversially, the Oregon Legislature last year created a tax credit for ranchers who have suffered wolf depredations, set aside $37,500 to fund it, and authorized local sheriffs as the investigating agents, who will likely be far less rigorous in their investigations than the ODFW.
Oregon has made a huge effort to accommodate stockmen, and at the same time adhere to the will of the majority who wish wolves a place in this state.
And finally, although many claim that wolves from a depredating pack will carry this behavior to other packs as they disperse, theres no record of any dispersed Imnaha wolf killing livestock after leaving the pack not OR3 (last known in the Ochocos), nor OR5 (who went to the Walla Walla pack), nor OR7 (who went to California), nor OR9 (who went to Idaho), nor OR12 (who became the Wenaha pack alpha male).