As Oregon wolves rebound, tensions rise over livestock attacks

Photo courtesy of ODFW

In late 2017, Ted Birdseye was jolted awake by the sound of dogs barking. It was 2 a.m. and he figured the animals had seen a coyote and waited for them to settle down. When they didn’t, he grabbed his rifle and headed into the brisk November night.

Out in the pasture, past the barbwire fence that surrounds his Jackson County ranch house, Birdseye saw about 75 of his cows, tightly bunched in a defensive triangular formation, nervously staring at something behind him. He’d worked with cattle his whole life and he’d never seen anything like it.

He followed their gaze and crept around the corner of his house. Birdseye peered through the scope on his rifle and spotted two shadowy figures low to the ground. Too big and too bold to be coyotes, he knew instantly he was looking at a pair of gray wolves sizing up his herd.

“I’d love to shoot you,” he whispered under his breath.

He raised the rifle and let off a warning shot just above the wolves’ heads. Within seconds, they were gone, two black streaks disappearing into the cover of the trees.

His is just one example of the conflict that’s arisen since Canis lupuswas reintroduced to the American west 20 years ago. As the animals have established territory in places they’ve been absent for a generation, the wolf has gained enemies as ranchers have lost cows and sheep. Industry groups have argued for killing wolves that target their livestock and, as they see it, their livelihood.



Story published courtesy of The Oregonian/OregonLive.