Oct 29

In Idaho wilderness, researchers say wolves aren’t decimating elk

In Idaho wilderness, researchers say wolves aren’t decimating elk

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MCCALL, Idaho — A pair of University of Idaho researchers deep within the state’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness say that while wolves around their three-room cabin are making elk more skittish, the predators aren’t decimating populations of the prized big game animals as some hunters fear.

Wolf researcher Jim Akenson, 48, and his wife, biologist Holly Akenson, 48, live and work at the Taylor Ranch Field Station as part of what’s so far a nine-year study of wolf behavior. The ranch is 34 miles from the nearest road – supplies come in by bush plane – and may be the most remote year-round human habitation in the lower 48 states.

The Akensons concede elk have become harder to find, but not because wolves are killing them.

Rather, the presence of packs in the woods has made elk more leery of exposed ground. That has hunters mad, because tracking the big ungulates every fall during hunting season has gotten more difficult. An elk that gets spooked in wolf country typically plunges into a river or mountain lake, because wolves are at a disadvantage in water, the Akensons said.

“That is something you didn’t see before wolves,” Holly Akenson said in an interview with the Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Ore.

Idaho, along with Montana and Wyoming, are trying to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections for wolves, whose population in the region including Yellowstone National Park now tops 1,200.

Eventually, the states want to hold legal wolf hunts; Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say this is needed to restore balance in some areas where wolves have gotten the upper hand.

With computers and an Internet connection to keep them connected with the outside world, the Akensons are studying how the growing number of wolves are interacting with other species in the region, too: cougars, big horn sheep, moose and bears.

“When there is a pack around, cougars are not comfortable around their kills or raising kittens,” says Jim Akenson. “A lot of times a big cougar will kill a wolf, but the pack phenomenon changes the table.”

Four years ago, he recalls, he was riding a mule on an icy mountain trail 200 feet above Big Creek when he encountered a dead cougar. In an instant, a pack of wolves appeared and began howling.

“We could not turn around,” says Akenson. “It is the most precarious condition you can imagine, with wolves howling around you.”

Akenson’s saddle mule, Daisy, sniffed at the cat carcass, stepped over it, and led Cricket and Rocky, the pack mules, down the trail. When Akenson later returned, he discovered the cougar had been killed by another cougar – not the wolves, as he’d expected.

Even surrounded by three packs at Taylor Ranch, the Akensons say they’ve never been threatened.

Still, they take precautions.

They don’t allow Mica, their golden retriever, to roam unaccompanied. Wolves generally hunt in packs of eight to 12 and have killed several hunting dogs in Idaho in recent years. The researchers also don’t let their horses graze in large pastures. Horses instinctively flee wolves, and could provoke an attack.

The mules are less of a worry, Jim Akenson said.

“Mules look at a wolf and say to themselves, ‘Do I need to stomp it?’” he said. “Our mules love to chase bears, too.”

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Oct 26

OK: Reward offered for information in wolf poisonings

Reward offered for information in wolf poisonings

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. A 200-dollar reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the suspected poisoning of five wolves at a wildlife sanctuary in Broken Arrow.

Lori Ensign with Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary says five wolves have died or been put down since spring.

And veterinarian Doctor Dan Danner says there’s no question the animals were poisoned. Danner says blood samples are being tested at a lab in Texas to determine what type of poison was used.

The 200-dollar reward is being offered by Animal Medical and Surgical Hospital and Ensign says she plans to at least match that amount.

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Oct 26

MT: Calf injured by wolf

Calf injured by wolf

By Gazette News Services

LIBBY – A wolf seriously injured a calf last week in the Island Lake area about 20 miles east of here, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said.

The incident occurred in an area traveled by up to three different packs or pairs of wolves, two of which aren’t collared, FWP wolf management specialist Kent Laudon said.

FWP biologists are investigating but said it’s uncertain at this time which wolf or wolves are responsible for the damage. In the meantime, cattle are being removed from the range for the season, eliminating the risk of further damage.

FWP officials said trapping of radio-collar wolves isn’t practical this time of year with the increased human activity during hunting season. Biologists will resume trapping throughout northwest Montana in the spring.

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Oct 25

AK: Group seeks to ramp up wolf hunting

Group seeks to ramp up wolf hunting

Associated Press

The Alaska Board of Game is being asked to loosen wolf hunting regulations throughout Southeast Alaska. The Upper Lynn Canal Advisory Committee wants to boost the moose population in the Chilkat Valley. The Haines-based committee has submitted two proposals for consideration at the board’s November meeting.

One proposal seeks to extend the wolf hunting season one month throughout Southeast. It also would allow five additional wolves to be taken in the region. The second measure would allow for same-day fly-and-shoot hunting in the Chilkat Valley near Haines. If approved, this eventually could allow hunters to fly over the area, spot a wolf, land their aircraft and kill it.

Jenny Pursell — board president of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance — worries that the proposal could pave the way in the Southeast for aerial wolf hunting.

That method of hunting differs from the one being proposed in the Chilkat Valley because it does not require hunters to land before shooting wolves.

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Oct 25

ID: NEW SUCCESSES IN NONLETHAL WOLF CONTROL
LEAD TO ZERO WOLF-RELATED LIVESTOCK LOSSES FOR LO

NEW SUCCESSES IN NONLETHAL WOLF CONTROL

LEAD TO ZERO WOLF-RELATED LIVESTOCK LOSSES FOR LOCAL RANCHERS

Collaborative Conflict Management Unites an Alliance of Ranchers,

Wildlife Conservationists and Natural Resource Managers

Boise, ID — Local ranches partnering with Defenders of Wildlife and wildlife agencies to expand their use of non-lethal wolf control measures experienced no wolf-related livestock losses this grazing season. Lava Lake Land and Livestock, which grazes sheep on the Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests, made use of a new type of electrified fladry called “turbofladry” to create highly portable night corrals, while The Lazy EL Ranch in the Absaroka-Beartooth foothills in southern Montana began a successful range rider program to protect grazing cattle herds. Both ranches experienced zero known livestock predations to wolves and credit this success to a collaborative and non-lethal conflict management approach.

Mike Stevens, who runs Lava Lake Land and Livestock, heralded the summers proactive control efforts, including the turbofladry project, as a highly successful example of creative, non-lethal conflict management. “Practical, inexpensive and non-lethal methods help reduce losses and conflicts while promoting better cooperation between ranchers, state and federal land managers and wildlife conservationists.”

Defenders of Wildlifes program, The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund, helps local ranchers and wildlife managers fund non-lethal methods to protect livestock through both traditional means, like range riders and livestock guarding dogs, and new technology including electric barriers and alarms triggered by radio telemetry. Defenders contributed more than $40,000 this season to support non-lethal projects with expert assistance from state and federal wildlife managers who also helped identify and implement proactive methods for these collaborative projects. Defenders also administers The Bailey Wildlife Wolf Compensation Trust which compensates ranchers for verified losses to wolves.

“Ranchers who are committed to being good stewards of the land and its wildlife are the most important partners we have in wolf conservation,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “While no methods are 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time, reducing conflicts through non-lethal methods allows both wolves and livestock to better co-exist in many areas. We are proud to work with our partner ranchers and look forward to working with others as the program expands.”

Sheep depredation losses on large public land grazing operations are the main cause of wolf deaths in the northern Rockies — and one of the hardest conflicts to prevent. This summer, Defenders partnered on an experimental non-lethal project with Lava Lake Land and Livestock, whose sheep grazing operations range over large federal allotments in central Idahos Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests. With more than 6,000 sheep, Lava Lake runs one of the largest sheep outfits in the region on over 800,000 acres of private and public land, and has received recent U.S. Forest Service awards for their environmental stewardship practices. Last summer wolves killed 25 sheep on one of their grazing allotments. This summer, with the help of USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho and Defenders, Lava Lake utilized the newly designed turbofladry (solar powered electric flagging barrier) and created highly portable night corrals to protect a sheep band. Lava Lake used turbofladry in conjunction with guard dogs, night watches by herders and use of shotguns and cracker shells to deter wolves from approaching the sheep band. While these bands consisted of over 1,200 sheep and were in close proximity to wolves during late summer, they did not experience a single wolf depredation despite being within a quarter mile of the location where wolves had killed sheep and a guard dog in 2005. Idaho Fish and Game biologists confirmed the presence of wolves within one to two miles of the sheep band. Stevens also notes that regular communication amongst Wildlife Services, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Lava Lake was a crucial element in reducing livestock losses.

Defenders co-sponsored several range rider projects on ranches including The Lazy EL, a 12,000 acre ranch located in the foothills of the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness, 35 miles northwest of Yellowstone National Park. In 2003, wolves began establishing pack territories north of Yellowstone near Red Lodge and some began killing livestock. As a result of the conflicts, two entire packs of wolves were killed. The ranch family at the Lazy EL, which has owned their ranch for more than 100 years, is actively using non-lethal methods to promote co-existence with wolves. Their range riders are caring for cow and calf pairs from August to late October. The ranchs grasslands are excellent habitat for elk, deer and moose and consequently, wolves are attracted to the area.

“Ranchers are not the enemies of wildlife supporters,” said Jael Kampfe, ranch manager of The Lazy EL. “We are simply seeking to protect our familys traditions and western heritage. By working with Defenders, we are building more common ground to collaboratively resolve conflicts. We share a love for this land and its wild beauty. We just need better ways to co-exist.”

Defenders seeks to work with ranchers to expand the use of these and other non-lethal control methods. Since its inception, The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund has contributed more than $275,000 to local ranchers and communities to help them use non-lethal measures to protect livestock from wolves before conflicts happen. The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Wolf Compensation Trust has paid more than $715,000 to local ranchers to compensate them for verified livestock losses.

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Oct 25

Volunteers Sought to Help Monitor Wolf Population

Volunteers Sought to Help Monitor Wolf Population

Wisconsin Ag Connection – 10/25/2006

The Wisconsin wolf program is looking for a few good trackers. People interested in volunteering to locate gray wolves and other forest carnivores in the coming year and help keep count on the elusive animals can learn how to track wolves during a series of upcoming training sessions.

Volunteer trackers are assigned survey blocks in forest portions of northern and central Wisconsin, and are asked to conduct three or more surveys in their assigned block each winter. Data they gather can be compiled with those of other volunteers to aid Department of Natural Resources biologists in evaluating wolf populations.

In 2006, 120 volunteer trackers surveyed 67,200-square-mile survey blocks covering 4,897 miles of snow-covered roads and trails, and detected more than 255 different wolves.

Based on volunteer and wildlife biologist surveys, in late winter 2006 biologists estimated there were 465 to 502 wolves in the state, including 449 or more outside Indian reservations. During spring and summer 2006, 29 wolves were trapped and radio-collared. By early fall, 56 wolves were being radio tracked by Wisconsin DNR pilots, including wolves captured and collared in previous years. This accounts for about one-third of the state packs being monitored by radio-telemetry, the remaining packs are monitored by DNR and volunteer trackers.

If people have already taken these or similar type classes, they can take one of the tracking courses, and be signed up to do track surveys this upcoming winter.

For more information, call 715-762-1363.

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Oct 25

CA: British Columbia May Kill Cougars, Wolves for Caribou Recovery

British Columbia May Kill Cougars, Wolves for Caribou Recovery

By Neville Judd

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Canada, October 25, 2006 (ENS)  A new government plan to save British Columbias threatened mountain caribou involves moving some predators and killing others. Critics say the government is scapegoating predators and a moratorium on logging plus habitat restoration in clearcut areas would do more for caribou recovery.

A team of scientists recommends killing the predators. In a provincial government Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan released Tuesday, the scientists suggest “more liberal hunting of cougars and wolves, as well as black bears. The targeted removal of individuals [cougars] or packs [wolves] would also be required in some areas.”

The recommendations are the result of nearly two years of research on mountain caribou in British Columbia by a team of independent mountain caribou experts from BC, Alberta and Idaho.

“Based on the results of the independent science team’s research, we believe we can successfully recover mountain caribou to sustainable numbers in British Columbia,” said provincial Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell today.

Candace Batycki of ForestEthics, a nonprofit environmental organization with staff in Canada, the United States and Chile, told ENS today that Bell is scapegoating predators instead of protecting habitat.

“The minister seems not to listen to what his own scientists are telling him,” said Batycki. “The solution lies in habitat protection, not blaming other animals.”

Wildlife biologist Andy Miller of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee agreed, saying, “It is ironic that the BC government is going on a predator-killing campaign when the reason predator numbers have increased is because of clearcut logging.”

“Clearcutting creates temporary habitat for deer and moose. Predators follow them, and sometimes create problems for caribou as well,” Miller said.

“The way to deal with predators is to stop blaming them, and instead restrict the logging of low elevation caribou habitat,” he said. “As clearcuts decrease, so will the deer, moose and their predators.”

Miller said the worst part of the recovery plan is that no habitat protection is advocated for any of the caribou herds in southern British Columbia.

“This plan has little to do with science, and a lot to do with doing favors for the unsustainable logging and motorized recreation industries,” said Miller.

The Wilderness Committee advocates a moratorium on all logging in mountain caribou habitat, and restoration of former caribou habitat in clearcut areas.

In September, ForestEthics was among five British Columbia environmental organizations that released a map showing that up to three million hectares (11,583 square miles) need to be protected.

The information for the map, said Batycki, came from BC government scientists and was intended for the provincial governments mountain caribou science panel.

“They seem unwilling to address the habitat protection issue,” said Batycki, who also questioned the makeup of the governments list of stakeholders interested in mountain caribou recovery.

They include a heli-skiing tour company, the Council of Forest Industries and a tourism society.

“Theres a clue in the fact that the stakeholders have financial interests,” said Batycki. “These are public lands, so why are economic issues represented among stakeholders?”

The mountain caribou, Rangifer tarandus, is among the most migratory of all animals. These caribou feed on lichens, mushrooms, grasses, sedges and other green plants in the summer and twigs, horsetails, and willow in the winter. They are great swimmers and run at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour).

Mountain caribou are found in the east of the province from as far north as the District of Mackenzie down through the Kootenay mountain range and into the United States.

A decline in numbers over the past century has left BCs mountain caribou population at about 1,900. This population was designated nationally as threatened in 1996, which means the province of British Columbia, a signatory to the federal-provincial 1996 Species-at-Risk Accord, is obliged to protect them and to develop recovery strategies.

To this point, those strategies do not appear to have been enough. Citing statistics that show that from 1996 to 2002 the caribou population dropped 17 percent, the the BC governments independent watchdog for sound forest practices, the BC Forest Practices Board, said in September 2004, “The substantial and continuing decline in the mountain caribou population is serious and requires urgent government attention.”

“Government will need to make difficult decisions in the short and medium term on issues such as habitat conservation, predator/prey management and recreational access to demonstrate a serious commitment to mountain caribou recovery,” the Board advised.

Bell said Tuesdays findings demonstrate that recovery of mountain caribou in British Columbia is possible over the long term.

“Now we need the input and support of environmentalists, First Nations, industry, tourism operators and communities to develop and implement a recovery plan in 2007,” the minister said.

The science team divided the mountain caribou habitat area into 11 planning units based on geography. The team found that a minimum of 75 to 100 animals are required in a planning unit in order to maintain a resilient population.

Currently, only six of the planning units have herds greater than 75, with the largest herd containing about 717 mountain caribou. Each of the remaining five planning units has up to 37 animals.

According to the science team’s research, potential recovery actions could include removing predators such as cougars and wolves that are known to kill mountain caribou.

Removal of other ungulates such as deer and moose from mountain caribou habitat is also recommended as well as more protection of core mountain caribou habitat from logging.

Further management of recreation activities in mountain caribou habitat, plus translocation of mountain caribou from larger to smaller herds, are also suggested.

“We’re pleased to see the provincial government take the next steps in the caribou recovery program,” said Dave Butler, director of land resources with the heli-ski tour company Canadian Mountain Holidays. The company is listed among stakeholders with an interest in mountain caribou recovery.

Butler pledged, “We’re committed to working with them to ensure our operating practices are effective in preventing mountain caribou displacement in all areas of mountain caribou habitat.”

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Oct 24

More Than 57,000 Alaskans Support a Ballot Measure to Once Again Halt the Same-Day Airborne Shooting

More Than 57,000 Alaskans Support a Ballot Measure to Once Again Halt the Same-Day Airborne Shooting of Wolves and Bears

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire/ — Today Alaskans for Wildlife
(AFW), a statewide group of sportsmen, scientists and recreationists
submitted more than 57,000 signatures of Alaskans from across the state to
place a measure on the ballot in 2008 to ban same-day airborne shooting of
wolves and bears. The number is far in excess of the 31,451 required and
represents nearly 20 percent of the number of voters that participated in
the last general election.

“With the help of our signature gatherers across the state, including
many volunteers, we were able to gather in excess of 57,000 signatures and
easily surpassed the minimum requirement of 31,451,” stated Joel Bennett,
president of Alaskans for Wildlife (AFW). “We are confident that our
efforts will pay off. This ballot initiative will allow Alaskans to once
again stop private hunters from using aircraft to shoot wolves across large
areas of the state in the absence of a biological emergency or sound
scientific data.”

In addition to far surpassing the minimum number of signatures needed
AFW met the second requirement of securing a sufficient number of
signatures from at least 30 of 40 state house districts. AFW’s own count
tallies more than the minimum number of signatures from at least 34
districts. By meeting the signature requirements AFW has succeeded in
placing the issue of same-day airborne shooting on a statewide ballot for a
third time.

The proposed ballot measure is essentially the same as the 1996 and
2000 ballot measures, each of which was approved by Alaskan voters but
overturned by the legislature. As with the two previous ballot measures,
this one will also not affect legal ground-based hunting of wolves and
bears statewide by sport hunters, trappers and subsistence users. It also
includes a provision allowing the use of aircraft by Department of Fish and
Game personnel to control predators in cases of biological emergencies.

“From our personal experiences over the last few months, voters across
the state made it clear that they want another chance to ban the same-day
airborne shooting of wolves and bears, and we’re committed to making sure
their voices are heard yet again,” declared Bennett. “From Anchorage to
Juneau to the bush, the message we heard was the same: ‘Stop same-day
airborne wolf shooting.’ That’s exactly what our measured ballot initiative
will do.”

“We also wish to thank our colleague organizations, Alaska Wildlife
Alliance and Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund for their continued support
of our efforts,” stated measure co-sponsor Nick Jans. These two groups
provided advice and logistical support, allowing us to focus on the task at
hand — collecting enough signatures to qualify for inclusion on the 2008
ballot.”

“Remember, these are Alaskans signing this petition. As in the past two
initiatives, we received substantial support, not just in urban areas, but
in the bush as well, including many Native communities where subsistence is
a way of life. The people of Alaska have said it twice before and we’re
saying it again: Stop the same-day airborne shooting of wolves and bears.
We don’t support it, we don’t believe in it, and we don’t want it,” said
Nick Jans.

For more information visit http://www.alaskansforwildlife.org

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Oct 20

WY: Weather drives park predation

Weather drives park predation

By BRODIE FARQUHAR
Star-Tribune correspondent Friday, October 20, 2006

Changing weather patterns — which may or may not be linked to global warming — are driving dramatic changes in wolf predation patterns within Yellowstone National Park.

“I’m not looking at whether this is connected to global warming,” said Doug Smith, lead biologist and team leader of the Yellowstone wolf project. Yet wolf and prey behavior is different from what it was at the beginning of wolf reintroduction to the park in 1994, because the weather is different, he said.

Although there is much more research to be done, Smith said, he believes that the ongoing drought is having an impact on the health and fitness of bull elk, and that wolves are picking up on this new development.

The drought is hurting forage quality and quantity, which is reflected in poorer fat and energy reserves in bull elk.

“I’ve been watching one bull elk near Mammoth, and he’s competed well against other bull elk and has kept his herd together,” Smith said. “The trouble is, he really looks awful now, and he’s limping.”

Smith said that bull elk is a prime candidate to either succumb to winter or wolf predation.

In marked contrast to the early years of reintroduced wolves in Yellowstone, today’s wolves are targeting bull elk in the fall and winter, simply because the bulls are in worse shape and are worn down by their exertions during the fall rut. Before the drought set in, Smith said, bull elk typically had enough energy reserves left over after the rutting season that they weren’t seen as easy prey by the park’s wolves.

Bison feel it, too

Different weather patterns in winter are also having an impact on wolf/bison behavior deep in the interior of the park, Smith said.

“The park’s interior is a place where elk migrate out for the winter, but the bison don’t,” he said. Consequently, interior wolves are beginning to target bison during the winter, in the absence of elk. Two packs rely on bison kills full time to get through the winter, while a third pack relies on bison half of the time and a fourth preys on bison about a quarter of the winter.

Changing weather has either made it harder or easier for bison to get through the winter, Smith said. Winters with little snow are a bit easier for bison, because the wind will blow snow off of ridges, providing easier access to vegetation. Deep snow, however, forces bison to work much harder to reach food by digging through the snow.

What happened last winter was “a fatal recipe” for bison and a windfall of easier hunting for wolves, he said.

“We had a couple of months last winter where the temperature got above freezing every day, then dropped below freezing at night,” Smith said. These daily thaws — extremely rare a decade or two ago — created crusty snowpacks which were much more difficult to move through and harder to dig through for the vegetation underneath.

When a bitter cold snap followed, the snowpack “turned into concrete,” Smith said. That was bad news for the bison and great news for the wolves. Weakened bison fell prey to either Old Man Winter or the neighborhood wolf pack.

“We saw the highest winter mortality we’ve seen in 10 years,” he said.

Other wildlife

Because of changing weather, Smith and other researchers are seeing things they didn’t see before.

Ed Bangs, Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreed that warming trends carry tremendous implications for wildlife — take bighorn sheep, for instance.

“They need wind-swept ridges to survive in the winter,” Bangs said. If a wet, heavy, sticky snow comes along, the sheep could be in a lot of trouble, because there would be no wind-swept ridges and no food.

In other wolf developments, Smith said the Yellowstone packs have bounced back somewhat in population, after a canine disease outbreak took 70 percent of the pups two springs ago.

“We’ve started a new research project where we look at blood samples we take when we collar wolves,” Smith said. He and other researchers hope to learn more about what diseases the wolves are exposed to by studying these blood samples.

This most recent spring, there was a pup survival rate of 70 percent, allowing the park’s wolf population to get up to 140-145, up from 118 last year — although far short of the peak population of 171 reached in 2004.

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Oct 20

Oregon ranchers fear return of the wild wolf

Oregon ranchers fear return of the wild wolf

By WILSON CHOW, kgw.com Staff

Near Enterprise, Ore. — Wild wolves have not roamed eastern Oregon since the 1930′s, but already some unconfirmed sighting have ranchers and environmentalists ready for a fight.

Longtime rancher Rod Childers is bracing for change. The wife and I moved here in 1977, said Childers. Originally from southern Idaho, Childers now owns and operates family style ranches in Wallowa County.

You know in the ranching deal, you do it because you love it, because you don’t make a lot of money at it.”

While Childers has faced challenges before there is an enemy this generation of ranchers has never seen.

Do wolves scare me? Absolutely,” said Childers.

For more than 70 years herds roamed Wallowa County without fear of the wolves. “They were killed off primarily because of they are predators,” said Larry McLaud with the Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

McLaud said in the 1930s Oregon decided to exterminate the wolves to make the rural landscape more hospitable to raising livestock, but how he homes the wolves will thrive once again in eastern Oregon.

While there have been a number of recent wolf sightings, none have been confirmed. Experts said the wolves are coming from Idaho where they were reintroduced more than 10 years ago. Biologists expect those wolves to eventually cross the Snake River, if they have not already, and gain a foothold in Oregon.

Allowing the wolves, which are federally protected, to return to Oregon will restore the ecosystem since “they are part of the natural functions and processes of our lands out here,” said McLaud.

While wolves may restore the environment, many ranchers fear the consequences. “If we go with what the federal government agencies or the environmentalists, you’re looking at the last generation that will be out here on the land,” said Childers.

And caught in the middle are officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “I think it is a contentious issue,” said Russ Morgan.

Morgan said experts scoured hundreds of square miles looking for the wolves. Once the animals arrive Oregon will follow its management plan, which calls for at least four breeding pairs of wolves in the first phase.

“A lot of my job will be to work with landowners, stock growers, said Morgan.

Even without a confirmed sighting, ranchers want new ways to defend their livestock. Childers said, “those are my income and things, and we should be able to protect our private property,”

Rod wants the ability to kill wolves, which is now illegal since the animals are federally and state protected.

I understand they have concerns, but I think we can live together, said McLaud. Conservationists say there are compensation programs if owners can prove a wolf has killed livestock. But, Childers said “a wolf will eat the bones off this calf, you won’t find a skeleton out here, it’ll be gone” so many ranchers would be unable to prove a wolf has killed livestock.

So now the very land ranchers struggled to work for generations could be turning on them. Landowners, environmentalists and wildlife experts look for a compromise.

“You kind of kick the dirt and wonder what the hell is going to happen, but hopefully we’ll get something resolved,” said Childers.

With the wolves now in or near Oregon, many ranchers in Wallowa County are fearful, aware of the dangers of an unseen threat that may reveal itself tomorrow. “Hopefully things will work out, but you just don’t know.”

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