Setting ‘take limits’ could help wolf management problem
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 23:01
Since their reintroduction to Yellowstone in 1995, wolves have caused controversy. This controversy is surrounded by whether wolves are helping stabilize the ecology of Yellowstone, or if wolves are in fact detrimental to humans, animals, ranchers and farmers. According to National Park Service, in addition to Oregon, wolves were also reported in Idaho, and occasionally in Washington.
Managing the wolves efficiently, however, seems to be a problem. According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, non-lethal methods are preferred over lethal methods, and to the ranchers’ chagrin, lethal methods can only be used once non-lethal methods are proven inefficient. In addition, ranchers are not allowed to shoot a wolf unless they are in the act of attacking their cattle, and once this is done they must leave the carcass untouched, and prove the wolf was attacking their cattle.
Adding to the ranchers’ frustration, a permit is needed for the lethal take of wolves. Ranchers see the lethal take of wolves as protecting their investment: their cattle.
In 2009, the depredation rates for Idaho were 75 cattle, 324 dogs and one goat; in Montana the depredation rates were 97 cattle, 202 sheep, four dogs and four llamas, according to DFW. In Oregon, from April 2009 through July 2010, wolves took seven calves, 28 sheep and one goat, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Even if these numbers seem minimal, the economic cost could hurt ranchers and exacerbate other issues they are already facing.
However, effects on agriculture are not the only drawback to overpopulated wolves. The effect upon game animals makes an impact on not only hunters, but ecologically as well. In an ecosystem, there are prey animals, such as elk and deer, and predator animals such as wolves and mountain lions. In an ideal ecosystem, everything is well balanced and interdependent. However, as more predators abound in an ecosystem, the population of the prey animals declines. It caues the organisms prey animals feed upon to become more abundant. Likewise, an increase of prey animals becomes less abundant, because more predator animals are in an ecosystem. Thus, more of the organisms the prey animals feed upon will be in the ecosystem, affecting other organisms in the ecosystem.
Considering farmers are not allowed to take wolves unless they are in the act of attacking their livestock (not just investigating the livestock), seems to not only serve as an annoyance to ranchers, but also introduces a sort of gray area as to when a wolf may be lethally, taken. Once a wolf is taken lethally the rancher must leave the carcass where it was shot. In addition to this, once ranchers take a wolf lethally, they must notify the Department of Wildlife, and an official must come out and determine if the wolf was taken legally. To further keep wolf take in check, random population checks could be implemented by the Department of Wildlife.
To properly manage wolves, the state of Oregon should instead issue a certain take limit for farmers and ranchers in areas where wolves are prominent. These take limits would be based upon both wolf population in the area, and the number of wolf-predation interactions in the area. This would eliminate the gray area and also reduce the amount of regulation and procedures surrounding wolf take. This would also allow ranchers to protect their cattle without waiting for the wolf to fulfill the regulation for lethally taking the wolf. This would also deter other wolves from attacking their cattle.
In addition to these limits, a statewide take limit (or, on a more local level, county-wide take limits) should be implemented. Again, based on wolf population, this limit would allow us to keep the wolf population in check. To keep ranchers from taking more wolves than are allotted, perhaps a number of tags may be given to ranchers, sort of the same idea with big game hunting. If wolf predation were to increase, then more tags could be given.
Wolf management is surrounded by regulations and controversy. The plan I propose would prevent livestock predation, as well as act as a deterrent for wolves to attack livestock. I understand this may not be a cure-all for the issue, and that my plan is probably far from perfect — but something more needs to be done to regulate wolves before they become a bigger issue.
Tyler Pike is a junior in agricultural sciences. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Pike can be reached at email@example.com.