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OR: ODFW expands a kill permit against Harl Butte Pack

Five wolves have been legally shot in Northeast Oregon since August.

Eric Mortenson
Capital Press

A select group of Wallowa County ranchers have permission until Oct. 31 to kill four more wolves from the Harl Butte Pack that has repeatedly attacked livestock in the area.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Oct. 6 announced it had authorized “lethal take” of wolves by either ODFW staff or by livestock producers affiliated with a grazing association. Ranchers are permitted to shoot wolves on public or private land on which their livestock are currently grazing, and there are no restrictions on the age of animals to be killed. They don’t have to be caught in the act of attacking livestock.

Todd Nash, a Wallowa County rancher who lost a calf to the Harl Butte Pack this summer and who is wolf committee chair for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said no wolves had been shot as of Monday morning.

Oregon Wild, the Portland-based group deeply involved in wolf management and other issues, condemned what it called ODFW’s “wolf killing campaign.”

The group said the area used by the Harl Butte Pack and other “wolf families” is among the wildest landscapes remaining in Oregon.

“If wolves are being killed for eating unattended livestock put right in front of them in a place like this, it’s fair to ask if there is anywhere wolves will be allowed to thrive in our state?” the group said in a prepared statement attributed to conservation director Steve Pedery.

ODFW killed four pack members in August after confirming 10 livestock attacks by the pack since July 2016. At the time, ODFW said it hoped its “incremental” response would work – and for six weeks there were no confirmed attacks, called depredations.

But ODFW confirmed attacks on private land Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 in which one calf was mostly consumed and another was badly bitten. Non-lethal deterrence methods haven’t worked, said Roblyn Brown, acting wolf program coordinator for ODFW,

“Grazing season is not over and these cattle will be on public land until Oct. 31 and private land even later depending on the weather,” Brown said in a prepared statement.

“As wildlife managers, we are responsible for balancing the conservation of wolves on the landscape with our obligation to manage wolves so that damage to livestock is limited. We need to take further action with this pack,” Brown said.

The Harl Butte Pack is thought to consist of six adults and three wolves born this past spring. The younger wolves are estimated to be 50 to 60 pounds by now; adult wolves range between 70 to 115 pounds.

In a related development, ODFW said the lethal take authorization against the Meacham Pack, in neighboring Umatilla County, has expired. One wolf was shot after ODFW authorized killing two wolves. The department initially said the wolf killed was a non-breeding female, but examination showed it had bred this year.