By Sarah Kirby
Posted Apr. 27, 2016
Wolves and livestock workshops are taking place in Siskiyou County, and Tuesday at Bob’s Ranch House in Etna, a group of concerned citizens listened to speakers who discussed the spectrum of conditions affecting wolf populations in Siskiyou County. The event was sponsored by the California Wolf Center.
Karin Vardaman, director of California Wolf Recovery, explained that the workshops were a chance for education, communication and working together to overcome challenges.
“I am not a rancher. I’m not going to pretend to be able to understand all of that. Our organization would like to offer support. We don’t want to see livestock die because of the wolf, and I don’t want to see the wolf die because of livestock,” Vardaman said.
The workshop began with Vardaman introducing the agenda for the day’s workshop and introducing the speakers: Carter Niemeyer, a former United States Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist, trapper, hunter and author; Joe Engelhart, an Alberta Ranch Manager and cow boss; and Timmothy Kaminski, a Mountain Livestock Cooperative worker. Niemeyer began the presentation by discussing the behaviors, movement and distinctions that make up the wolves that have recently entered Siskiyou County.
“The average pack structure of a wolf is six to eight wolves. They breed once a year around Valentine’s Day in mid February. They have a 63 day gestation period like dogs, so births of wolf pups would be around this time of the year starting about a week ago, with an average of four to six pups. These wolves set up a pack territory of 250 square miles, and they maintain themselves within that range if they have enough deer and elk to eat,” Niemeyer stated.
Niemeyer gave a slideshow presentation that mapped how the wolf OR-7 came to Oregon by straying from traditional wolf corridors; however, he explained that the wolf entering the state was rare. Yet, because the wolf was being documented by a GPS radio collar, biologists believe that the wolf was able to stray from his pack and move so quickly south because he had food readily available. Niemeyer who came from Idaho to speak, explained that the wolf most likely did not live on livestock but instead on boneyards in the area.
Niemeyer explained that female wolves often give birth to their pups in dens that may have been old badger holes or hollow tree stumps. The pups spend the first 8-10 weeks of their lives in the den until the mother and father move the pups to a wet meadow area for the summer. He said that the average wolf weighs 100 pounds, with the largest ever recorded at 147 pounds. An average wolf’s height is around 3 feet.
Niemeyer was part of the team that helped reintroduce the gray wolf into Yellowstone almost 20 years ago. A slide in the presentation showed that there have only been two confirmed human deaths from wolves in the 21st century; one took place in Alaska and the other in Canada. Niemeyer insisted that wolves are not dangerous; however, he did explain that a domesticated dog has no chance against a hungry wolf.
After Niemeyer’s presentation there was a period for question and answer. The floor was quickly flooded by a slew of questions from those in attendance. The questions soon rolled into a discussion that took over the agenda for the rest of the morning session of the workshop. Those in attendance had great concerns involving the return of the wolf, Fish and Wildlife’s neglect regarding the matter, and how it would affect the welfare and safety of the community. There was also allusion to there being a much larger issue lying under the midst of wolf talk that touched on encroaching upon personal freedom, ownership rights in relation to land, and a surge of fees that are causing grave economic disturbances to ranchers in Siskiyou County, and, in particular, Scott Valley.
“Fish and Wildlife has betrayed us. We have been personally targeted, and we have spent 50,000 dollars, and yet we can’t sit down at the table with them or NOAA. This is our lives and we are invested and so many people don’t have to invest anything. They get their jobs and paychecks and their entitlement. Everything we put into this is more and more and more money to defend our livestock and who we are. There is so much misinformation about who we are and how we have been perceived, and I am a school teacher. I see both sides. The focus is so narrow and pointed that we are definitely under threat. While people from the outside can regulate our lives, we are fighting to stay alive,” one speaker said.
Compensation regarding cattle loss was a major topic of conversation, with the majority in attendance agreeing that ranchers were compensated too little for cattle lost to predators like wolves. Plus, that monetary compensation, according to those in attendance, could never compensate for the time and emotional struggles imbued by animals that are taken down by wolves. One gentleman, who works as the treasurer for the Siskiyou County Cattlemen’s Association, shared a tale about his love for his animals. He explained how he worked for almost seven days babysitting a new calf, that, at the end of it all, was taken down by two coyotes.
“I spent seven days saving that critter. I’m not gonna give up. These calves are my kids. I got a wife, but those cattle are all my girlfriends. That calf would come up to me, and let me pet him for about three days, but the next day I didn’t see him. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit back and let these wolves take my kids. Only about 5percent of the people that actually have a problem with the wolf have actually seen the wolf and that’s the scary part,” he said.
Vardaman thanked the speaker for sharing his story, and she admitted that she now sees how much the folks in the area love their animals. She stated that part of California Wolf Center’s mission is to help people understand these new perspectives to find common ground. The treasurer for the Cattlemen’s Association said that he left a life of big money to come back and live a peaceful life on a ranch that he could take care of and defend. He said that since the reintroduction of the wolf, and many other issues pertaining to water use he has looked at moving to ranches in Idaho, eastern Oregon and other areas, but he has ultimately found a home in Scott Valley.
“I’ll tell you something, when I go into those areas and see all the environmental problems, all of the roads lead right back to Scott Valley. One of the things that keeps me here is that I can’t take the Jenners with me. I can’t take the Johnsons, the Mike Byrens and Jim Morrisons and other neighbors with me. I don’t want to start over. I have lifelong friends right here. I’m done moving. This is home. Government regulation or not, I’m staying,” he said.
Future workshops include McCloud on April 27 at the Mercantile Hotel, Bieber on April 28 at the Bieber Memorial Hall, Dorris on April 29 at the Butte Valley Community Center, and Montague on April 30 from at the Community Hall. Each workshop is from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.