In Oregon's Wallowa County, where a wolf depredation prevention plan worked so well that the Oregon Department of Agriculture adopted it statewide, wolf attacks on livestock are more prevalent than other parts of the Beaver State, says a local official.
"Wallow started it and the state took it up," says local wolf committee chairman Susan Roberts of what has become the ODA's Oregon Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance County Block Grant Program.
Her committee receives the biggest allocation of the five counties included in the latest round of funding from the state. Wallowa has received $15,532 of the most recent state allocation of $37,782 under the program.
That's largely due to the fact that wolves are a worse problem in Wallowa than in any other Oregon county, according to ODA depredation grant administrator Jason Barber. "Wallowa and Umatilla (counties) are the hardest hit," he says. Umatilla received the second largest cut of the new money: $15,500.
Much of the money for Wallowa will go to hiring of range riders at $22 an hour to patrol the livestock areas highest in wolf attack potential. County committees pay the ranchers for hiring the riders, some which may already be part of the ranch workforce.
While the riders must provide their own horses or ATVs to conduct the patrols, as well as the means of transporting them to use areas, they are provided with the electronics necessary to receive state reports on movements of wolves equipped with signal collars. Telemetry tools and antennas are not a rider expense.
Umatilla County Oregon State University Extension livestock specialist Randy Mills, who administers the program in his area, says the program is working out for ranchers in terms of providing a human presence on the range. Umatilla uses part of its funding for "fladry," a term applied to use of electrified rope on which colored flagging is attached, considered to be a deterrent to wolves.
"What the range riders and 'fladry' are is more tools in our toolbox to fight wolf attacks," says Mills. "The more we can do, the better."
The range rider program has worked well in Umatilla, he says. "One producer has been very proactive the human presence. He has a pack of wolves in his summer grazing area, but up to now there has been no depredation in the animals there."
The program offered by the state isn't foolproof, he notes, but helps to avoid some wolf problems.
"Ranchers seem to think the program is helping," he says. "They know this won't solve the depredation problem entirely, but it is one action."
Putting people on the range appears to be a partial solution to the wolf depredation problem in Oregon, a state which neighbors Idaho where many of the original reintroduced wolves were placed.
"Riders are out there," says Mills, " and that gives ranchers some peace of mind."
Much rests on how the Oregon program will continue to be funded, and whether it will be renewed when the current allocations run out.
For more on this story, see the December issue of Western Farmer-Stockman.