Oregon is not getting enough press on their wildlife wolf policies, and we are doing better than anyone in the country.

Wildlife biologists will tell you there are studies that indicate elk populations flourish in areas where there are wolves.  Wolves instinctively prey on the weak; the lame, the infirm and keep the herds moving, so that trees along riverbanks grow instead of being browsed, which keeps streams cool, fish and birds healthy and the ecology diversified and strong. Oregon is doing all the right things so far.

Keeping our fledgling population of wolves safe, unlike Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Minnesota, where all the protections were lifted and shooting, trapping, gassing of dens and poisoning have destroyed over 1,000 wolves. Rampant wolf killing generates conflict, controversy and headlines. But Oregon is quietly writing a different story. Our total state population is around 45 and legislation introduced to try to hunt them here has stayed with a court injunction so far.

Responsible ranchers have stepped up and increased efforts to prevent conflict — good for them — and it worked.  In 2012 only four cows were lost to wolves in the whole state, and this where cattle are raised in public forests and BLM land. This may sound like a lot, but 50,000 died from other causes. These statistics can be found in the Department of Agriculture records.

This story has national coverage but was not repeated here in Oregon. It shows Oregon is doing things differently and successfully. It needs more attention just like Journey, the world’s most famous wolf, who returned from California on Tuesday night in his long search for a mate.

To be clear, a couple dozen wolves is a long way from recovery. Nearly half are pups less than 1-year-old. The killing of over 1,000 wolves in neighboring states means Oregon can no longer count on recovery there to help bolster numbers here.

And though most Oregonians value our native wildlife, for some old prejudices die hard. Wolves fear people. A vocal, but politically powerful, minority continues to push to go back to the days of killing all wolves in Oregon. Though lobbyists for the livestock industry and some misinformed hunters are pushing anti-conservative measures, we’re holding our ground in Oregon, as usual.

Nancy Shinn

Coos Bay

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