Sunday, November 1, 2015

ODFW Attempts to cull wolves with only 81 in entire state

The recommendation goes to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission, which will decide November 9 whether to de-list wolves.

The Global Positioning System collar that allowed people around the world to track the movements of Oregon's famous wandering wolf, OR-7, has stopped working.

The ODFW staff recommendation was not a surprise.

The state's wolf plan calls for initiating a process to consider stripping wolves of legal protections when eastern Oregon hits a population of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years.

Todd Nash, wolf committee chairman for the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, said ranchers welcome ODFW's recommendation and hope the commission follows through with delisting. There are at least 81 wolves and 16 groups or packs located throughout the state.

But wolf advocates and several prominent Oregon wolf researchers questioned the mechanism state biologists used to arrive at those findings.

In testimony urging commissioners to keep wolves listed, a group of scientists outlined the benefits wolves pose to the ecosystem and questioned the parameters state researchers used to justify their recommendation.

"Prematurely weakening gray wolf protections is likely to reverse years of progress, put recovery in jeopardy, and exacerbate conflic,t" the 14 scientists wrote in the jointly-penned letter. Dr. Carlos Carroll, a wildlife ecologist with the Klamath Center for Conservation Research, whose research focuses on habitat, viability and connectivity modeling for threatened and endangered species, expressed concern in his written analysis that the manner in which certain factors were applied in the analysis "is overly optimistic compared to data from well-studied wolf populations," and that the status review relied on information "that doesn't accurately represent what is now known about genetic threats to small wolf populations."

Wolves now occupy 12.4 percent of that area, and are expanding at an annual rate of 860 square miles. Their population is less than one-sixteenth the size Oregon State University scientists have determined the state can sustain.

ODFW's Wildlife Diversity Plan stipulates that delisting an endangered species must be backed by "verifiable" scientific information, which is defined as having been peer-reviewed by independent scientific panel. A group of leading independent scientists this week voiced their opposition to a plan to remove state protections from Oregon's wolves, saying the estimated population of only 83 wolves can not be considered recovered. Federal ESA protection would still be in force in the rest of Oregon.

Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf program coordinator, said delisting wolves would not immediately changed how wolves are managed under the Wolf Plan, but allows the plan to "continue to work into the future".

Wolf advocates and enemies are already gearing up for a fight over the plan review.
"It's guided by the wolf plan," she said.