A weaned calf depredation that made it through fall might be considered at 800 pounds. Replacement heifers, cows, bred cows and registered livestock present other mitigating factors. Stock dogs and horses are occasional victims and merit compensation.

Steve Tool

Wallowa County Chieftain

Committee determines payments to ranchers for wolf depredation
Reimbursement rate is variable

When wolves returned to Wallowa County in the early 2000s, ranchers absorbed the cost when one of their livestock became dinner.

As the only county in the state that harbored a permanent wolf population, leaders decided something needed to be done.

The county formed the Wallowa County Wolf Compensation Committee in 2011 at the suggestion of local rancher Dennis Sheehy. According to county commissioner Susan Roberts, the idea began as a community alliance livestock fund to help producers who were hardest hit by depredations.

Eventually, a committee of nine was formed. Eventually the idea came to the attention of the Oregon Legislature.

“We said, ‘Hey, the state has determined we need wolves and here’s how they can help,’” Roberts said.

The legislature ultimately mandated seven-member committees for counties with wolves –– two members from the wolf conservation community, two livestock producers and a county commissioner or designee. That group of five would select two members from the local business community.

As the wolf population spread, additional counties have looked to Wallowa County as a model of management.

“We have shared our methods, forms and papers with anyone who asks for them, so they wouldn’t have to start from scratch,” Roberts said.

The Claims Committee determines the monetary value of depredation losses.

“Knowing ranchers, knowing conditions: it’s all part of the equation,” Wallowa County Commissioner Todd Nash said.

The group meets annually and uses August as its reference point.

“Usually, by August, you know how the markets are going to be for that year,” Nash said. “We try not to take the high or low, we decide on a reasonable price.”

Market rate for beef doesn’t determine the damage amount. For example, if a 100-pound calf is killed, the damages aren’t set in the $150-$200 range the calf might have brought at auction.

“We don’t sell those calves,” Nash said. “We consider that he would have made it to weaning at 600 pounds.”

A weaned calf depredation that made it through fall might be considered at 800 pounds. Replacement heifers, cows, bred cows and registered livestock present other mitigating factors. Stock dogs and horses are occasional victims and merit compensation.

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