On the heels of a report that the Trump administration plans to end the protection of Grey Wolves, 23 sheep were found dead in Oregon. The bodies were found between February 23rd and March 4th.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) conducted the depredation investigation and found that it was “probable” that wolves were to blame. ODFW said only 5 of the 23 carcasses were examined. The report said, “The premortem trauma and attack locations…are consistent with a wolf attack, but lack diagnostic evidence to clearly differentiate between wolf and domestic dog.” The report also said that there was no “chase, struggle, or kill scene” found. If more evidence is found, the classification could be changed.
When investigating these situations ODFW follows a specific criteria to determine if wolves were to blame or not. A case can be classified as “confirmed”, meaning it was definitely wolves; “Probable”, meaning it is likely wolves but lacks enough evidence to prove it; or “Possible/Unknown”, which can be the case when a carcass isn’t available for inspection. A kill is labeled as “Other” when other predators are to blame.
So far in 2019, there have been 3 “confirmed” wolf attacks on cattle. If further investigation reclassifies this sheep attack as “confirmed”, that would mean that more animals were killed by wolves in this single attack than in the entire 2018, 2017, or 2016 years.
Ranchers have been calling for wolves to be delisted for quite some time. They point to depredation as a reason that the wolf population should be responsibly managed. However, many others believe wolf numbers aren’t high enough to be managed by hunting just yet. John Mellgren, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center said, “Given that gray wolves in the lower 48 states occupy such a small percentage of their historical habitat, it is almost laughable for the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine that they are successfully recovered.”
Well Mr. Mellgren, it doesn’t seem that ranchers are laughing.