Wildlife officials won't allow people to kill wolves in eastern Oregon's Mount Emily pack despite five confirmed attacks on a sheep herd this summer.
Jeremy Bingham of Utopia Land and Livestock formally requested permission to kill the animals that he says are "massacring" his sheep, reported the East Oregonian, but the department turned him down.
The pack killed at least seven sheep and a guard dog in June and August, but the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife said non-lethal control measures have worked since the last attack, according to department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.
Although the state wolf recovery plan allows "lethal control" of wolves after two confirmed livestock losses, non-lethal measures must prove unsuccessful before killings are authorized. In this case, wolves have not killed any livestock on the property since the end of August, Dennehy said. Bingham did not request lethal control until nearly a month after the last livestock attack, she added.
The wolves also have to be present routinely on the property and propose a significant risk to livestock for the state to authorize killing them. In this case, Dennehy said, the wolves have moved to the central and southern part of the range, and the sheep are in the northeastern edge.
In addition, Dennehy said, the seasonal use on the rancher's grazing allotment ends Oct. 19, so the sheep will be gone from the range in a couple of weeks.
The department hasn't authorized killing any wolves since there were two in 2011.
"We are sorry your experience with Oregon's forest lands has been problematic this year," wildlife biologist Mark Kirsch wrote in a letter the department sent to Bingham. "It is our hope you complete your grazing season with no further loss."
Bingham does have the right to use lethal force if a wolf is caught in the act of biting, wounding, killing or chasing his sheep or dogs. This does not require a permit from the state.
Bingham called the officials dishonest and told the Capital Press that "the only interest to them is that the wolves eat the economy of Eastern Oregon."
He said he's followed the state guidelines even while losing an estimated 100 ewes to wolves over the past two years. In addition to the guard dog killed this year, two were injured last year and another disappeared and is presumed dead.
"We have not harmed any wolves but we are not in the business of sacrificing assets to feed (the wildlife department's) pet dogs," Bingham told the Capital Press by text.
There aren't wildlife department reports to corroborate all of Bingham's claimed losses, but he said he didn't report many of the attacks. According to the East Oregonian, other farmers suspect wolves kill many more cattle and sheep than are confirmed by the state.
The Department of Fish & Wildlife follows a strict protocol to confirm wolf attacks, including an examination of wounds and measuring bite marks and tracks.