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Update Oct. 6, 2017

Harl Butte Pack: Additional lethal take authorized

ODFW confirmed an additional two depredations by the Harl Butte Wolf Pack in the past few days, during investigations on a dead calf on private land on Sept. 29 and an injured calf on private land on Oct. 1.

ODFW will now authorize additional incremental lethal take of up to four wolves from the pack, which may be killed either by ODFW staff or by  livestock producers affiliated with a local grazing association who will be provided with a limited duration lethal take permit. The permit is valid until 10/31/2017 and allows them to kill wolves in pastures on public or private land currently occupied by their livestock. 

The Harl Butte pack is currently estimated at nine wolves (six adults and three wolves born this past spring). The younger wolves are likely to weigh between 50-60 pounds by this time of year while adult wolves generally weigh 70-115 pounds. Any wolf in the pack may be taken under the lethal control authorization.

ODFW has removed four adult wolves from the Harl Butte pack since Aug. 3, when it first authorized lethal control after non-lethal measures failed to prevent wolf-livestock depredation. The fourth wolf was killed Aug. 25. “With continued non-lethal measures by the livestock producers throughout the grazing season, we were hoping to see depredations stop after removing four wolves. And six weeks had passed with no depredations since mid-August. Unfortunately, it didn’t last,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW acting wolf coordinator. “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.”

“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,” said Brown.

Livestock producers in the area have continued to use non-lethal preventive measures to limit problems with wolves. These measures include: increased human presence during daytime hours and spending nights outside to protect cattle from wolves; grouped cattle into one pasture instead of several; removed horses from a pasture after ODFW observed a wolf interacting with the horses; and a county and a volunteer range rider have patrolled the area and hazed wolves away from cattle. 

 

Aug. 25, 2017

Update on the Harl Butte Pack

ODFW killed the fourth Harl Butte wolf, a non-breeding adult female, this morning (Aug. 25). A third wolf was killed on Aug. 17, also a non-breeding adult female. The pack is now believed to number six adult wolves plus at least three pups.

ODFW will continue to monitor the situation to see if the removal of four wolves has been effective in limiting further wolf-livestock losses. Livestock producers will continue to use non-lethal deterrents including daily human presence, removal of potential attractants, and hazing.

 

Aug. 16, 2017

Update on the Harl Butte wolf pack

Today, ODFW confirmed another depredation by the Harl Butte wolf pack. ODFW intends to remove an additional two uncollared wolves (not pups) from this pack to limit further livestock losses.

Note the Harl Butte wolf pack is larger than originally estimated. ODFW has found evidence of at least eight wolves remaining in this pack, not including three pups. 

Two weeks have passed since ODFW first announced plans to lethally remove wolves from the Harl Butte wolf pack due to chronic depredation. ODFW removed two non-breeding members of the Harl Butte wolf pack last week.  (One 33-pound wolf pup of the year was unintentionally captured and released.) 

During the past two weeks, the radio-collared wolf in the pack, the breeding male, has been monitored closely to determine if he and other members of the pack altered their behavior and location. Removal of the two wolves, increased human presence in this area and continued use of non-lethal deterrents by livestock producers did not result in a significant change in the pack’s behavior. 

ODFW will continue to monitor the effectiveness of this next removal and  livestock producers will continue non-lethal deterrents including daily human presence, removal of any potential attractants, and hazing.

ODFW moves to lethal take for Harl Butte wolves to limit further livestock losses

Department denies request for complete removal of pack; takes incremental approach to disrupt pack behavior

Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017

SALEM, Ore.—ODFW wildlife managers intend to remove some of the adult wolves in northeast Oregon’s Harl Butte pack to limit further livestock losses as non-lethal measures and hazing have not been successful in limiting wolf depredations.

On July 28, ODFW received a lethal removal request from several affected livestock producers from a local grazing association after two depredations were confirmed in a five-day period. They asked that the entire Harl Butte pack be removed due to chronic livestock depredation. ODFW has decided to deny the request and will take an incremental approach instead, removing two members of the pack and then evaluating the situation. “In this chronic situation, lethal control measures are warranted,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator. “We will use incremental removal to give the remaining wolves the opportunity to change their behavior or move out of the area.”

In the past 13 months, ODFW has confirmed seven depredations by the Harl Butte Pack in Wallowa County, which killed three and injured four calves. Six of the depredations have occurred in an area that supports dispersed livestock grazing in large forested pastures on private and public lands.  ODFW believes that depredations may continue or escalate despite non-lethal deterrent measures in place due to the history of depredation by this pack. 

When non-lethal deterrence measures are not sufficient, the state’s Wolf Management and Conservation Plan allows for lethal control as a tool to address continuing depredation. At the request of a producer or permittee, ODFW can consider lethal control of wolves under these circumstances: if it confirms at least two depredations of livestock; if the requester documents unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation thru non-lethal means; if no identified circumstance exists that attracts wolf-livestock conflict; and if the requester has complied with applicable laws and the conditions of any harassment or take permit.

In this situation, the livestock producers have maintained a significant human presence in the area of the depredations. Human presence is recognized as one of the best non-lethal methods to limit wolf-livestock conflict in dispersed grazing situations because wolves tend to avoid people. The producers coordinate between themselves, their employees, a county-employed range rider and a volunteer to ensure daily human presence coverage of the area. They increase human activity in areas when they see wolf sign, learn (through telemetry of a radio-collared wolf) that wolf activity is in close proximity to livestock, or when livestock show behavior that could indicate wolf presence. 

The increased human presence has given the livestock producers and the range rider multiple opportunities to haze wolves that were chasing or in close proximity to livestock.  On seven different occasions in June and July 2017, wolves have been hazed away from cattle by yelling, firing a pistol, shooting at, walking towards, and riding horseback towards the wolves.

Producers or their employees have also been spending nights near their cattle. Several producers are keeping their stock dogs inside horse trailers at night (as wolves are territorial and may attack dogs). Other producers are changing their typical grazing management practices including bunching cow/calf pairs in a herd (which enables cows to better protect themselves) or delaying pasture rotation to avoid putting cattle in an area where wolves have been.

While investigating reported livestock depredations, ODFW looks for attractants to wolves such as a bone pile or carcass that may contribute to the conflict. Livestock producers have also been watching for vulnerable livestock and carcasses in order to keep them from becoming wolf attractants and have been quick to remove them. Three injured or sick livestock were moved to home ranches for treatment and to protect them from predators. One dead domestic bull was removed from an area of concentrated cattle use (a pond). ODFW has not identified any circumstances or attractants that could promote wolf-livestock conflict in this area.

All these methods used by livestock producers have complied with Oregon’s applicable laws.

The Harl Butte Pack’s first depredation of livestock was confirmed in July of last year. ODFW received a request for lethal control in October 2016, after the fourth confirmed depredation. The department denied this request because most cattle were being removed from the large dispersed grazing pastures and out of the depredation area, so future depredation was unlikely.

The situation is different now because cattle will be grazing in the area on public lands until October and private lands into November, so ODFW expects the depredation will continue.

“Based on the level of non-lethal measures already being used and the fact that wolves are likely to be in the presence of cattle in this area for several more months, there is a substantial risk that depredation will continue or escalate,” said Brown.

ODFW intends to remove up to two adult uncollared wolves from the Harl Butte Pack by trapping or shooting from the ground or air. Once two wolves have been removed, the removal operation will stop. If two wolves have not been killed after two weeks, ODFW will assess whether removal efforts will continue another two weeks. If a new depredation occurs after the removal of two wolves, lethal control may resume.

About the Harl Butte Wolf Pack

The Harl Butte wolf pack may have formed and bred as early as 2015 though they were not documented until 2016. ODFW counted 10 wolves at the end of last year and observed seven wolves in the pack in March.  One wolf in the pack, OR50, was collared in February 2017 and is believed to be the breeding male of the pack.

The pack is expected to have bred this year, and their weaned pups would now be about four months old, though the exact number of pups is unknown.

###

Contact:

Michelle Dennehy, (503) 947-6022, michelle.n.dennehy@state.or.us

 
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