Ranchers in nine Eastern Oregon counties will receive compensation from the Oregon Department of Agriculture for managing wolves around their livestock in 2015.

Funding for the Oregon Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance Grant Program comes from the legislature and is administered through ODA to pay for dead, injured or missing livestock, as well as non-lethal wolf deterrents.

The department recently approved $81,300 for Umatilla, Wallowa, Baker, Union, Malheur, Morrow, Crook, Jefferson and Wheeler counties. About 63 percent of the money is set aside for deterrents such as fladry, guard dogs, bells, penning lights, bone pile removals and range riders.

Umatilla County received the largest slice of the pie with $25,950, including $1,800 for dead or injured livestock, $975 for missing livestock and a whopping $22,500 for deterrents. The money will be sent to the county’s local wolf advisory committee, which will cut checks to cover claims by producers.

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife confirmed 11 incidents of wolf predation on livestock in 2014. Of those claims, six occurred in Umatilla County and resulted in 16 dead sheep, five injured sheep and two injured cows.

Randy Mills, staff officer for the Umatilla County Wolf Depredation Advisory Committee, said those claims have already been approved. The committee will meet sometime in the fall to consider requests for deterrents.

Wallowa and Baker counties were the only other two awarded claims for dead or injured livestock. Jason Barber, director of internal services and consumer protection for ODA, said that even though the wolf population is growing in Oregon, there hasn’t been an even pattern on the number of livestock attacks confirmed by ODFW.

“I would think the non-lethal deterrents are working, hopefully,” Barber said.

However, ranchers argue there are more predations happening — it is just exceedingly difficult to get ODFW to confirm a wolf attack, since it is nearly impossible to catch a wolf in the act of chasing livestock and it can sometimes take days to find a dead animal in densely forested pastures.

The governor’s proposed budget actually calls for decreasing the amount of compensation available through ODA from $200,000 to $100,000 for the next biennium, though lawmakers recently passed a bill in the state senate that would maintain the current funding levels. The bill was carried by Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, and has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

There are currently 77 known wolves in Oregon, most in the state’s northeast corner. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has started the process to consider removing the predators from the state endangered species list east of highways 395, 78 and 95.

Counties that were awarded ODA wolf compensation grants include:

Umatilla: $25,950

Wallowa: $24,905

Baker: $17,315

Union: $3,000

Malheur: $450

Morrow: $6,375

Crook: $650

Jefferson: $1,905

Wheeler: $750


Contact George Plaven at gplaven@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4547.

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