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OR: ODFW shoots third Harl Butte wolf for livestock attacks

Ranchers have asked that the entire pack be wiped out, but ODFW is taking what it calls an incremental approach.

Eric Mortenson
Capital Press

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff shot and killed a third member of the Harl Butte pack Thursday night and will shoot one more as it tries to deter the pack from devouring cattle in Wallowa County.

The latest “lethal take” is the department’s escalated response to eight confirmed livestock attacks attributed to the pack over the past year. The most recent was a calf found dead Aug. 16 on private pasture. The department killed two pack members earlier this month and announced it would monitor the situation. After the most recent attack, ODFW decided to kill two more adult wolves.

Ranchers represented by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association said ODFW should kill the entire pack, which apparently included 10 adults and three pups before the three adults were shot this month. Todd Nash, the association’s wolf chairman and a Wallowa County commissioner, said the pack gets after cattle every day.

The ODFW action was condemned by a coalition of 18 conservation groups, which called the shootings “unnecessary and counterproductive” and asked Gov. Kate Brown to intervene. The groups include Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity, all active participants in Oregon wolf management planning and often critical of ranchers and ODFW.

In a letter to the governor, the groups said killing pack members has “deepened public mistrust of ODFW.”

“Rather than a wolf problem, the Harl Butte situation raises disturbing questions about ODFW’s ability and willingness to require livestock operations to make meaningful efforts to avoid conflict,” the groups told Brown.

The letter said killing wolves is expensive and dangerous, and leads to more conflict with livestock.

“Killing disrupts important social structures and affects a pack’s ability to hunt deer and elk. Research has shown it only makes it more likely the animals will turn to livestock to feed themselves and their offspring,” the groups said in the letter.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office was not immediately available for comment.