Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, January 26, 2018, Page 20, Image 20

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January 26, 2018
Workshop helps identify
livestock predators
Rancher takes different
tack on wolf depredation
For the Capital Press
For the Capital Press
Courtesy of Mark Coats
Cattle form a defensive group, which rancher Mark Coats trained them to do when threatened
by a predator. In the foreground is a guard dog. Studies indicate wolves typically do not attack
groups of livestock, Coats said.
chase, immobilize and eat the
animal, which is often still
alive. “We’re trying to inter-
rupt that. That is the key.”
The key, he believes, is
training cattle to gather in
herds when threatened by
wolves or other potential kill-
Coats began researching
wolf and cattle behavior six
years ago when OR-7, then
a lone male gray wolf that
for several years was elec-
tronically tracked after it left
the Imnaha Pack in northeast
Oregon, passed through his
lands near the Lower Klam-
ath National Wildlife Refuge
along the Oregon-California
state line. During his wander-
ings in Southern Oregon and
Northern California, OR-7
eventually found a breeding
female. The pack has grown
and also includes OR-7’s
“My phone was ringing
off the hook because I was
the cattlemen’s president,”
remembers Coats, who
served as the Siskiyou Coun-
ty Cattlemen’s Association
president for three years, of
what spurred his interest. “I
started doing a lot of research
on what cattlemen can do.”
What cattlemen and oth-
ers can do is limited. Wolves
east of Highway 395, which
slices through Washington,
Oregon and California, are
not protected by the ESA but
wolves west of the highway
are protected, which restricts
ways cattle ranchers and oth-
ers can deal with potential
depredation threats. Coats
said various studies, includ-
ing research done in Yellow-
stone National Park, show
threats can be reduced or
eliminated if cattle are taught
to group together and not to
flee or run.
“The fear of the wolf
is still there. There are no
sound practices to deter
him,” Coats said of concerns
by livestock owners who
are legally prevented from
killing wolves. “We cannot
manage them with any effec-
tive measure.”
Instead of hunting or trap-
ping wolves, he believes the
predator awareness program
is a viable alternative. “When
wolves confront livestock,
they (livestock) get fearful
for their lives. Once they
reach the group, the pressure
is relieved. A defensive stand-
ing posture will deter wolves.
What we’re encouraging is a
defensive posture of moving
to the herd.”
He said studies indicate
wolves do not attack groups
of livestock, choosing instead
to chase individual animals.
According to Coats, previous
studies showed that wolves
will leave if livestock remain
still and in groups. While he is
focused on cattle, he said the
group-and-stand theory ap-
plies to other livestock. “We
always saw losses to coyotes,
but since we’ve worked with
this program we haven’t had
any losses to mammals.”
“Training can last several
months or, if done intensely,
seven to 10 days,” he said.
“And it continually needs to
be tuned up. The cow must
understand it is its decision
to return to the herd. ... A key
is training them to stand and
not run or flee.”
Studies indicate cattle can
check attacks by gathering in
groups as few as three, al-
though he prefers groups of
10 to 12. In more open ar-
eas, such as the Wood River
Valley south of Crater Lake
National Park, he promotes
having groups of 40 or 50.
He hopes to make his
findings more available
through a series of work-
EO Media Group File
Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife biologist Pat Matthews,
left, uses shears on the carcass
of a Sept. 29 wolf depredation
on private land at Marr Flat,
southeast of Joseph, Ore. The
calf and land belong to Wallowa
County commissioner and
rancher Todd Nash. Cowboys
Wyatt Warnock, center, and
Clancy Warnock, right, who
work for Nash, look on. Law
enforcement officials and
ranchers recently met to learn
how to identify which predators
have killed livestock.
uty Fred Steen, who are well
familiar with investigating
whether livestock was killed
by wolves.
Wolf attacks on livestock
started in 2009 when lambs
and a calf were killed outside
Baker City. Steen said short-
ly after wolves began killing
cattle in Wallowa County in
the spring of 2010 he attend-
ed training in Enterprise led
by Rick Williams, a USDA
Wildlife Services agent from
Idaho, and a workshop host-
ed by Oregon Department
of Fish and Wildlife in La
But the bulk of his exper-
tise in animal necropsies, he
said, was in the field inves-
tigating dead livestock with
Marlyn Riggs, who was Wal-
lowa County’s Wildlife Ser-
vices field agent until 2014.
Steen said he attended the
workshop in Malheur County
“to see how these Canadian
conservation officers work
through their process.”
Like the Wallowa County
sheriff’s office, Johnson said
when his deputies investi-
gate a potential wolf kill they
treat the area like a crime
scene and contact the Ore-
gon Department of Fish and
Wildlife. A veterinarian who
is on Malheur County’s wolf
compensation committee has
assisted with necropsies and
trained the deputies.
An investigation of an
animal presumed killed by
a predator attempts to deter-
mine if the animal was killed
or if it died of other causes
and was eaten by wolves af-
“We want to try and be
able to differentiate between
different kills,” Johnson said.
“With each predator the kill
characteristics are differ-
ent. All are very distinct and
some distinctions are very
The state Department of
Fish and Wildlife has hosted
a few workshops with Wild-
life Services, Roblyn Brown,
Oregon’s wolf coordinator,
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The recent killings of
three calves by wolves in
Jackson County, Ore., prob-
ably by members of the
Rogue Pack, hit close to
home for Mark Coats, who
advocates a predator aware-
ness program he believes
can reduce such incidents by
wolves, coyotes and other
Coats, who has cattle op-
erations in Siskiyou County
in far Northern California
and Klamath and Jackson
counties in Oregon, said the
attacks happened on a neigh-
bor’s land.
“My cows turned out
fine,” he said. “I’m confident
in my cows’ ability to stand
off predators,” explaining he
routinely takes steps to re-
train his herds.
Coats doesn’t necessarily
like it, but he accepts the fact
that wolves have become a
fixture in Oregon and parts of
Northern California.
“The wolf is a carnivore.
Killing is what he does. By
the laws of the ESA we can’t
do a lot,” said Coats, referring
to protections to wolves man-
dated under the federal En-
dangered Species Act. “We
need to learn how to stay in
business in his presence.”
Over the past six years
Coats has been studying and
implementing new ways of
preventing cattle deaths by
predators, including wolves,
coyotes and mountain lions.
He has been working with
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service on creating a pred-
ator awareness program he
believes can successfully re-
duce or eliminate predation
“What they need is the in-
dividualized chase,” where a
wolf or wolves isolate a cow
or calf from the herd, then
VALE, Ore. — As wolves
continue to disperse through-
out the state law enforcement
officials and ranchers are
learning how to determine
whether livestock was killed
by wolves or another preda-
Todd Nash, a Wallowa
County rancher who attend-
ed the meeting, said the in-
structors, Canadian conser-
vation officers James Barber
and Jesse Jones, talked about
looking at the totality of in-
formation at hand when in-
vestigating livestock that
appears to be killed by a
During an investigation,
the instructors noted the type
and age of the livestock and
whether the rancher had pre-
vious problems with any par-
ticular predator.
Then, Nash said, they
moved on to obvious things
such as ruling out bears in the
winter and looking for tracks,
bite marks and attack sites.
Various predators kill
differently, the instructors
said. When bears attack, they
maul, using their paws, but
not always their claws. He
said bears get on the back of
their prey and often attack the
withers, the ridge between an
animal’s shoulder blades.
Differentiating between
coyotes and wolves is largely
determined by the spacing of
their teeth. Also, wolves are
bigger and stronger and can
take on larger prey. Both ca-
nine predators use their teeth,
but coyotes are multiple bit-
ers, leaving more bite marks
than wolves.
Cougars are more strate-
gic and typically kill their
prey by clamping down with
one bite.
Oregon ranchers whose
livestock and working dogs
have been proven killed by
a wolf can apply for com-
pensation under a program
administered by the Oregon
Department of Agriculture.
Jerome Rosa, the Oregon
Cattlemen’s Association ex-
ecutive director, said his or-
ganization was a supporter of
the training, which was spon-
sored by the Malheur County
Sheriff’s Office.
“With the Oregon wolf
population increasing 30
percent per year and limited
qualified personnel to confirm
depredations, this program is
another tool in the toolbox to
manage escalating conflicts
between predators, livestock
and humans,” Rosa said.
Following a string of in-
vestigations into dead cattle
presumed killed by wolves,
Travis Johnson, Malheur
County’s under sheriff, said
there was an interest in get-
ting additional training in
“Part of the reason we
want to bring this in is so we
will all be better educated,”
Johnson said.
The deputies have had a
couple of classes, Johnson
said, and have worked closely
with Wallowa County Sheriff
Steve Rogers and Chief Dep-
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