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According to Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), agency biologists captured OR-4, the alpha male wolf of the Imnaha pack, and fitted him with a new working GPS collar in the Zumwalt Prairie area of Wallowa County, March 28.
The GPS collar had stopped transmitting data since January 25, when the agency received the last transmission. Since that time, ODFW staff and a range rider have continued to track OR4 using radio telemetry, as that equipment on OR4’s collar was still working. However, restoration of the GPS function, which automatically transmits updates of OR4’s location, will make it easier to track him and the rest of the Imnaha pack.
The text-message warning system also gave Wallowa County ranchers heads-up on preying wolves.
ODFW uses this wolf location information to monitor wolf activity. The department also provides it to livestock producers when they have cattle in the area of wolf activity, as part of efforts to try and prevent further livestock losses to the Imnaha wolf pack.
The Imnaha pack who has been 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. , over Thanksgiving Weekend Nov. 26, Dec. 12, Jan. 9, and Jan 14, when a total of six more cows, and Annie the mule were found killed by wolves.
While the pack is continuing a pattern of chronic livestock depredation begun in spring 2010, ODFW wolf coordinator Russ Morgan characterized the recent kills as a “significant” change in the pack’s behavior back in December 2011.
Previously the pack killed mostly smaller calves, but now it has shifted to larger-sized yearling and adult cows. The timing is also new, as depredation by this pack has not been previously confirmed during the period October through December.
According to ODFW, the law suit that prohibits ODFW from killing “chronic” livestock predators by trapping and euthanizing does not apply to Livestock producers who hold a legal kill permit issued by ODFW. They are still able to use lethal methods when catching wolves “in the act.”
Catching a wolf in the act is extremely difficult since they are very elusive and usually strike at night. To guard herds 24 hours a day, seven days a week is impossible. Wallowa County’s family owned ranching businesses already struggle in a tough economy. Hiring additional staff to stay with cattle on hundreds and sometimes thousands of acres is just not feasible. “It’s like demanding to hire security guards at every Safeway in the Willamette Valley to stand outside 24/7 just in case a cougar shows up in a parking lot,” a Wallowa County resident said. “It’s just impossible.”
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.
WVO latest information states that the court will not review the case until July, 2012.
Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity,Oregon Wild, and other wolf supporters claim that an animal protected under the ESA should never be able to be lethally removed, regardless of how much livestock they kill on private property.
Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild, and other wolf supporters have also said 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.
But in this case it was not a kill on cattle; it was a kill on a companion animal owned by a small business that makes their living taking people from areas including the Willamette Valley into untouched landscapes that are hard or impossible to reach by foot.
Steens dilemma shows that wolves do not discriminate about their prey, and little can be done to prevent further death of livestock by the Imnaha pack unless the wolves in question are removed either from the area, or by lethal means.
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.
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.