Two newly released wolves into Colorado come from depredating Five Points pack in Oregon
December 20, 2023
DENVER — Two wolves released on Dec. 19, 2023, in Grand County, Colorado, 2302-OR, a juvenile female, black color, 68 pounds, and 2303-OR, a juvenile male, gray color, 76 pounds, come from the Five Points Pack. According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Livestock Depredation Investigations, Five Points pack wolves injured one calf and killed another in separate depredations in July of 2023; killed a cow on Dec. 5, 2022; and injured a 900-pound yearling heifer on July 17, 2022.
On July 21, OFW authorized the killing of up to four wolves from the Five Points Pack after two attacks on livestock within a week, which were the second and third depredations in the area within eight months. USDA employees killed two adult females, one adult male, and a yearling female from the problem pack by Aug. 4.
CPW Director Jeff Davis and his staff testified before the House Agriculture Committee on Sept. 12, 2023, that they would do everything possible not to bring "problem" wolves to Colorado. An email to CPW asking why they released Five Points pack wolves from the chronically depredating pack has not yet been returned.
According to John Williams, the co-chair of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association Wolf Committee who serves as the Eastern Oregon Wolf Committee Chair. He has been involved with the association's Wolf Committee since its inception in 1996. Williams retired from a long career as an Extension agent at Oregon State University. He was an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at OSU where he worked for over 31 years. He began in 2008 conducting wolf/cattle interaction research and continued that work with a cadre of researchers until his retirement.
Williams said there is controversy whether removing a specific problem wolf from a depredating pack will stop the depredation. He said there is no research to support that, and the findings on the ground do not support the theory. Rather, he said, wolf pack size has some bearing on whether a pack depredates livestock.
"Once a pack starts to depredate on livestock, they tend to include livestock in their diet in the future," he said. "It does not say they always eat livestock but it's more like they acquire a taste for it, they like it, and they stay on it and they may not."
VISIT TO COLORADO
Williams visited the Gunnison, Colo., area and said the release sites are very close in proximity to private lands and with wolves traveling hundreds of miles over the course of a week, the scale of wolf territory is sizable. To answer the question of what wolves are going to eat, he said, isn't unlike a group of six teenagers in a car driving down a street filled with restaurants.
"To answer the question what they're going to eat is just like that group of teenagers," he said. "One of them will pipe up and say they're hungry and the next restaurant they come to is the one they'll likely turn into unless the alpha male, the driver in this instance, says they're going somewhere else."
He said over-analyzing what a wolf will eat next is just that: over-analyzing.
"That's a long answer to your short question of will these wolves that were sent to Colorado going to depredate on livestock," he said. "The answer is yes. Right away? I don't know."
In Oregon, Williams said the highest depredation incidences tend to be during times when cattle are concentrated from gathering in the fall in August through December. Depredations slow when cattle are close to the ranches and elk are readily available.
"The simple answer is once a pack of wolves recognizes that steak is good, they will include that in their diet in the future," he said. "The Five Points Pack had four wolves removed because they were chronically depredating in July and August."
Williams said one of the ranchers who experienced depredation losses from the Five Points pack reported a 28% decrease in conception rates and also reported about 20 head of calves missing when pairs were gathered in the fall. Those calves are likely wolf kills, but the calves were never found, something that isn't uncommon.
Dead cows and calves, he said, is not the ranchers' biggest issue. Reduced conception rates, weaning weights, drops in body condition scores in the cows, increased management costs, he said, are the greater impacts.
"The confirmed kill list is a small piece of what's actually happening out there on the ground," he said. "The Five Point pack is a problem pack and has been. They have taken four wolves out of it and it sounds to me like someone tried to convince (CPW) that they took the four wolves out and they haven't depredated since then or haven't been seen depredating since then, that the problem has been solved in that pack and that's just not the case."
The release of five wolves comes just six days after CPW confirmed a wolf attack on a calf owned by Jackson County rancher Don Gittleson. Gittleson attended a CPW meeting in Moffat County following the release. According to Steamboat Radio, Gittleson answered questions from other ranchers in the room. He told the group he is particularly angry with the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center hosting a Wolf Naming Contest among students in grades 5-8. The contest includes an educational script for the teacher to utilize.
"Kids shouldn't be put in the middle of this," Gittleson said.
Source: Rachel Gabel, The Fence Post Magazine and Western Ag Network
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