Fate of Oregon’s Imnaha Wolf Pack

The loudest, most aggressive voices in the ranching community of eastern Oregon have shown an unwillingness to change long-standing grazing practices, preferring instead to conduct business as usual, as if they do not have to share the land with the wolf or any other large carnivore.  Some ranchers are even pressuring ODFW to eliminate the entire Imnaha wolf pack, yet the Oregon Wolf Plan requires that the state manage wolves for their recovery, not their second statewide extinction.

Let’s examine the facts:

  1. For confirmed wolf depredations Defenders of Wildlife compensates ranchers at full market value. The group pays half market value for likely wolf kills.
  2. On public lands ranchers graze stock for only $1.35 per cow/calf pair and are not entitled to a predator-free environment.
  3. On private land range riders and hazers have successfully reduced wolf predation on livestock.
  4. On private land where ranchers have removed carcass piles—which to wolves look like all-hours snack bars—wolf attacks have decreased.
  5. Where ranchers have used turbo-fladry (fladry on electrified wire) no depredations have occurred.

The wildlife and public lands of Oregon belong to us all. Will Oregonians be able to tell our children that we chose to be a model for other Western states and share the land with wolves, not just those species that don’t inconvenience some of us?

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Extermination of Oregon’s entire Imnaha wolf pack is on the table

Extermination of Oregon’s entire Imnaha wolf pack is on the table:  an urgent message from my friends at N.E. Oregon Ecosystems

ODFW announced yesterday that more Imnaha wolves may be killed, and Oregon conservationists share growing alarm that the entire pack may be exterminated. ODFW Regional Manager Craig Ely implied last month in a conversation with NE Oregon Ecosystems that this option might be on the table, and information from sources close to the ODFW have reinforced this conviction. As it is, the pack has been reduced from 16 members to 8 or less, and 3 wolves have been killed by ODFW this year. One has dispersed to Washington, one collared wolf has disappeared, the whereabouts of some others are unknown. The Imnaha pack is in real trouble…

The ODFW is under crushing pressure from Oregon cattlemen to kill wolves, and unless wolf supporters make their opinions known soon, this pack, Oregon’s first and biggest, its best chance of wolf recovery, will be killed. The opinions carrying the greatest weight will be those from NE Oregon residents. Our legislators, the governor, the ODFW, and the press need to hear from us, not just from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Assoc. and their friends.

Some points to consider:

*   The Imnaha pack represents half of Oregon’s wolves and the best chance for wolves to disperse to safer habitat in Central and Western Oregon, where livestock conflict is less likely.

*   Oregon wolves are protected by the Oregon Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Wolf Plan, implemented in 2005 and revised in 2010, requires wolves to be managed for recovery until their numbers allow them to be delisted. Treating every depredation as a crisis to be solved by lethal removals is not a satisfactory management plan for recovering a population. Killing wolves should be only a last resort.

*   There will always be stock losses from wolves, just as there are from coyote, bear, dog, cougar, eagle,and others. The OWP is not designed to eliminate wolf depredation, any more than state policy is to eliminate losses from any other predator. Predators are part of the livestock business in the West, where huge tracts of public land rightfully provide a home for wildlife, and from which the ranchers benefit by grazing allotments. Despite the presence of the Imnaha pack, no rancher has gone out of business or is in danger of doing so from wolves.

*   Confirmed wolf depredations are compensated at full market value and probables at half market value by Defenders of Wildlife. Vet bills for confirmed wolf-caused injuries are fully compensated. A compensation bill is under consideration by the state legislature.

*   “The state Endangered Species Act prohibits the killing of listed species with very limited exceptions,” points out Jennifer Schwartz of Hells Canyon Preservation Council, “If ODFW is going to lawfully operate within that narrow window of exceptions, it must be able to show that lethally removing wolves in response to conflicts with livestock is somehow necessary to further their conservation in Oregon. With so few wolves in the state, we are very much unconvinced that we need to kill more wolves in order to promote their recovery.”

*   After a strong start last year, wolf tourism is just starting to take off this season, with eco-tours scheduled for this summer and private operators planning for 2012. Tourists are planning trips specifically to be in wolf country and Wallowa County will benefit. Obviously the slaughter of the county’s most famous and accessible pack will bring this to a halt, and may well give the county a bad odor to those planning a visit to view wildlife.

Oregon Wild, in a statement on Monday, listed these four ODFW shortcomings:

*   Violating the wolf plan by baiting members of the Imnaha Pack back to the site of reported depredations leading to more losses that may in turn be used to justify lethal control.

*   Failure to adequately document and publicly share information on claimed non-lethal preventative measures.

*   Issuing 24 landowner kill permits without adequately documenting and publicly sharing information demonstrating those permits were issued in compliance with the wolf plan.

*   Treating every conflict between wolves and the livestock industry as a crisis by devoting nearly all of the agency’s wolf-related time and resources on a small fraction of the duties prescribed by the plan at the expense of research, education, and conservation.

A note on incremental lethal removal:

The management policy being applied this spring by ODFW is called incremental removal and is used when stock predation becomes chronic. It should only be employed after all non-lethal tools have been used. It’s intended to spare the pack while removing the depredating wolves. In the case of the Imnaha pack, it may be a valid policy, but it’s not clear that all the stockmen suffering losses have in fact used all the non-lethal methods, especially removing dead calves from pastures. Dead animals left lying around draw predators, and scavenged carcasses can be presented as wolf kills.

The ODFW is following a protocol designed to save the Imnaha pack, but the pack may also be drawn to prey on cattle by carcasses left on the range.

Please contact the following to express your respectful opinion about lethal removal of the Imnaha pack.

Governor John Kitzhaber: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]> – 503-378-4582.

CC the following:

1.  ODFW Director Roy Elicker: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]> – 503-947-6044.

2.  ODFW Commissioners: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]> (Individual Commissioners here<http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/members.asp>).

Please adapt your letter as a Letter to the Editor (300 word max) and send to

1.  The Oregonian: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]> and post to http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/

2.  The Chieftain: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>

3.  The La Grande Observer: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>

4.  The Baker City Herald: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>

Thank you all,

NE Oregon Ecosystems


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Alzheimer’s and Nature: A Toast to Tangerine

The moment I step off the elevator, Georgia takes my hand and looks into my eyes, “It’s so good to see you,” as if she’s known me a long time.  Her hands are soft, her eyes kind but worried.  She’s lost her coat, she says, and her daughter has taken her gloves.  Can I help her get them back?  Some days are better than others for Georgia, and every day something different has been taken or lost.

Some of the residents walk while others are wheeled into the activity room by attendants.  It’s Friday and the start of afternoon book club at this Alzheimer’s facility in Portland.  The residents have been reading Bob Hope’s Don’t Shoot:  It’s Only Me.  But today we’ll dive into some nature poetry.  My friend Leia has been volunteering two hours a week every Friday afternoon, and she’s invited me to join the group.

We start by reading Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.”  I read the first line, and Leia coaxes me to raise my voice.  “Honey, they can’t hear you.”  Some of the residents have poor hearing.   As a college professor, I have to speak loudly, often repeating assignment details and due dates.  Although my students aren’t clinically deaf, their minds are in the digital world during class, their fingers navigating the tiny key pads of cell phones deep in their coat pockets, even while their eyes stare fixedly at me.  Over the course of several weeks I grow accustomed to the volume of my voice, but spring semester ended two weeks ago, and I’ve gone into hibernation for the summer—writing and working with horses, animals who communicate by touch not voice, so I have not heard much of myself lately.  I start again, feeling as though I’m shouting, and half expect the residents to wince or the walls to shake, but Patricia and Georgia only smile as if now we’re getting on with it and they can appreciate Oliver’s music.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees.
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

When I pass the book to Chuck, he wants to know if Oliver writes about husbands.  I don’t know, I say, and show him where to begin.  He can’t see well, and the words seem to jump around on the page.  Poetry never seemed quite so alive, but Chuck gets frustrated.  Phyllis passes him her magnifying glass, a whopping hand-held device with a light, and the words settle down in the order Oliver put them.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Chuck reads better with the magnifying glass, but he still struggles, repeating the same line and with some difficulty.  But no one minds.  A good line is worth repeating.

Phyllis takes the magnifying glass and tries to read to read the next line, but the punctuation discourages her. “This doesn’t make any sense,” she says, and passes the book to Patricia.  When Patricia reads about the sun and clear pebbles of rain, there is an awe around the table I would give up a year’s salary to see in my college students.

The next poem is about a white owl, and Leia says, “I’ve never seen a white owl.”  Patricia and Phyllis shake their heads.  They haven’t either.  But Ellen has, and she’s reading the poem.  Ellen, an African-American woman, sits at the head of the table and commands our attention.  She is usually quiet, sitting with head down, hands folded in her lap.  But Mary Oliver is talking to Ellen, and Ellen is awake.

Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a buddha with wings…

Patricia, with her sharp nose, papery cheeks, and wide blue eyes gazes around the table. “That would really scare me,” she says, her veiny hands gripping the edge of the table.

Ellen glances up from the page, her eyes cloudy.  She looks at no one in particular and says, “Owl is checkin it out.  He’s doing research.”  Her words are round, well fed, and she punctuates her thoughts with a cluck of her tongue.  “Animals are there in the forest.  But they know how to hide.”  Ellen is talking back to Mary Oliver.

it was beautiful
and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings—

“Animals leave their print on the land,” Ellen says, pointing a finger in the air.  “It’s nice to think on these fineries.”  Everyone nods except Chuck who has fallen asleep.

After poems about swans and hummingbirds, we introduce a little aromatherapy.  We’ve dabbed cotton balls with essential oils of cedarwood, lavender and lemon, tangerine, clary sage, and glued them to index cards.  We pass them around the table, asking the residents what thoughts they associate with each scent.  When Patricia smells tangerine, she swings her arms as if waltzing.  Her sweater with its pink macramé roses lifts and falls with each swoop.  She recalls her years as a dancer, singing Tangerine, a song written in 1941 and popularized by Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra.

Tangerine, she is all they claim
With her eyes of night and lips as bright as flame
Tangerine, when she dances by, senoritas stare and caballeros sigh
And I’ve seen toasts to Tangerine
Raised in every bar across the Argentine

We spend the second hour in the downstairs courtyard planting two raised beds built waist high so the residents don’t have to bend over.  When Georgia reaches the door she stops and looks up.  “The sky—it’s so blue.”  I’ve heard Alzheimer’s referred to as a second childhood with all its wonder and discovery.  I know there is also a dark side, but I see only vague hints of it today.  As we rake the soil with hand claws and dig small holes for Better Boy tomatoes and Parador zucchinis, Georgia repeats that her daughter has taken her gloves and her coat is missing.   I tell her not to worry, we’ll find the coat and retrieve her gloves, and isn’t it nice to feel the dirt with our bare hands?  A small suggestion returns her mind to this moment.  If only my own mind were so easily soothed.

We turn over the soil and find walnut shells and whole peanuts left there by squirrels.  We pick out popcorn-sized chunks of Styrofoam fallen into the beds from the building’s eves, where starlings have pecked out the insulation.  Phyllis uses her walker to reach the second bed, where she digs a small hole with the hand shovel for another zucchini plant.  There’s a little bruising visible on the back of one hand, the veins so near the skin’s surface.  We put in a total of twelve plants, a mix of vegetables and herbs, and sprinkle wildflower seeds into hanging pots around the perimeter of the courtyard.  No one is left out of this activity.  Sallie, with her permanent gape and wild white hair, is wheelchair-bound and unable to see inside the beds, but she appreciates a whiff of good soil.  I scoop some into my hand and hold it under her nose, the hairs on her chin catching a ball of perlite.  “Good,” she says.  The courtyard is filled with the perfume of purple and white lilacs, the trunks of each tree leaning on the thin wooden fence separating this courtyard from the bustle of shoppers and skate punks on the other side.

When I leave at the end of the day, Georgia hugs me and tells me to come back again.  I’m smiling as Leia and I walk toward the car in the sunshine.  I can’t help myself.

Poems cited in this entry:  “Wild Geese” and “White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field” from New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, Boston:  Beacon Press, 1992.

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Oregon Wolf Update

This is the latest on wolves in eastern Oregon from my friend Wally Sykes.  Not enough has been done to prevent wolf-livestock conflicts in the first place.  So now ODFW has euthanized one wolf of the Imnaha Pack as of Tuesday and is still planning to kill another.  We only have 20-odd wolves in the whole state!  See two updates below.
Update May 18, 2011

Calf confirmed killed by wolves in Wallowa County

ODFW confirmed another livestock loss by a wolf in Wallowa County today (May 18).  A calf was killed by a wolf on Monday night (May 16) in the same area where a wolf was trapped (Monday evening) and killed by ODFW (Tuesday morning).  ODFW and USDA Wildlife Services jointly investigated the depredation, which occurred on private property. A calf was also killed on this same property by wolves last year.  ODFW has now issued 24 “caught in the act” permits, which allow livestock producers to shoot a wolf they “see in the act of biting, wounding or killing livestock.” ODFW will continue with efforts to kill another uncollared wolf in the Imnaha pack to limit further livestock losses.

Update May 17, 2011

Wolf killed in Wallowa County in effort to reduce livestock losses

SALEM, Ore.—An uncollared young male wolf from the Imnaha pack was trapped and euthanized this morning by ODFW staff. The action occurred on private property with livestock operations, where wolves had killed livestock in late April 2011.

ODFW killed the wolf in an effort to reduce livestock depredation in the area. Despite non-lethal methods in place to prevent wolf-livestock conflict, wolves from the Imnaha pack have killed at least four domestic animals this year. The pack was also involved in livestock losses in the same area at about the same time last year.

“This action is not something that we take lightly, but it is consistent with the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. “This will reduce the food requirements of the pack and discourage further use of this area [livestock operations on private lands].”

Efforts to remove a second uncollared wolf from the pack will continue.


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Bleet: Osprey in the air

It’s that time of year!  Nest-building time!  When driving near rivers, keep at least one eye on the road, but also look for gorgeous osprey flying above you as they carry large twigs for nest construction.  They like to build their nests on tall posts near water.

Photo: An osprey preparing to dive

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Green Bullets Flying


Pet owners are at it again.  Letting loose unwanted exotic animals.  In Britain, rose-ringed parakeets released by their owners have reproduced rapidly, their numbers increasing from an estimated 1,500 back in 1995 to 30,000 just a few years ago.  Although beautiful to look at with bright green wing feathers and the characteristic rose-colored ring around the neck, these birds may outcompete the native nuthatch and other native birds for limited food resources.  Why have their numbers exploded?  Global warming?  Perhaps.  Check out what scientists have to say in a recent New York Times article, and don’t release your unwanted pets!  Aside from dooming them to a horrible death, you might inadvertently introduce a species to an area, allowing it to proliferate and outcompete native animals.  thttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/science/earth/14parakeet.html



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