As Oregon's premier effort at merging wolf and livestock populations in the state ends with mixed results, industry continues to lobby for changes in the controversial Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance County Block Grant.
"Livestock producers have been exceptionally patient through these first years of wolf depredations and population growth," says Rodger Huffman, brand inspector for the Oregon Department of Agriculture which administers the program.
"It has gone pretty well," says Oregon Cattlemen's Association wolf committee chairman Rod Childers. "We need changes to the regulations to compensate us for costs which are not covered in the original agreement, however."
As ODA continues to pursue best management practices to overcome wolf kills of livestock, range riders now appear to be the "most effective measures," according to ODA's Jason Barber, who oversees the grant program.
Umatilla and Wallowa counties – wolf hot spots – have received a share of the $100,000 program to hire range riders whose job is to "go where the livestock are on horseback or on an ATV, looking for wolf activity and keeping them from interacting with the livestock," says Barber.
Barber is preparing a report on the first year of the program which will be presented to the legislature before summer.
The program also helps pay for fencing, which is considered to be a preventative measure. Fladry, electrified rope with attached colored flagging that flap in the wind, is another technique employed to scare off wolves.
In additional preventative solutions paid for with the $83,000 paid out under the program in the last year, include schools for ranchers in Jefferson and Crook counties focusing on use of non-lethal methods to reduce wolf attacks on livestock.
While a new round of grant requests continues for the second year of the program, currently the $22,000 remaining money is all that ODA has to administer the effort at this time. Some funds that were unspent last year have been placed back into trusts.
ODA is reviewing grant applications from counties at this time, however, with three newcomers – Wheeler, Morrow and Klamath – seeking their share of the funding, some of which is used to compensate growers for livestock losses.
"Accounting for actual losses in kills or animals that cannot be found is an ongoing effort in the industry," vows Childers.
With the limited amount of money available now, awards are expected to only cover compensation of ranchers who have had livestock killed or injured since the last round of funding, ODA announces. Depredation last year was documented in Wallowa, Baker and Umatilla counties, with $13,230 paid to ranchers.
Childers estimates that about 20 head of livestock were hit by wolves last year with eight confirmed kills and 13 head lost which the industry credits to wolves, but which the program does not cover.
He says about eight sheep were also killed by wolves in Oregon.
Gov. Kitzhaber has included another $100,000 for the program in his 2013-15 budget.
There are about 50 tracked wolves roaming Oregon today in six packs, estimates the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, adding that the real number is likely higher.
For more on this story, see the June issue of Western Farmer-Stockman.