Cost of wolves calculable

Staff |

Three researchers with OSU list economic impacts from wolves on Oregon's cattle producers.


Below is a “snap shot”, simplistic view of the economic impact of wolves on rural communities based upon a six year, ongoing study conducted by Dr. Doug Johnson, OSU, Dr. Larry Larson, OSU, and John Williams, OSU – Beef Extension specialist – Wallowa County. Specific details are available through these individuals.

Economic Impact on a 100 cow/calf pair operation in forested grazing areas:

1. 8-12 fewer calves come off of grazing due to wolf predation... $13,000

2. Calves average 30-50 lbs. less at weaning due to harassment by wolves... $7,000

3. All cows come off of the range thinner... $5,000

It takes 5-10 lbs. of extra energy and protein per cow per day to restore her to adequate shape to calf properly, provide sufficient milk for the baby calf for the winter and breed back.

4. Fewer cows breed back while under harassment on the range... $5,600

These un-bred cows must be sold in the fall and replaced with either young heifers from the herd, which reduces calves available to sell, or replacement cows purchased to maintain an effective herd size.

5. Management costs increase due to supervision and preventative measures while cattle are on large, forested range plot and in winter calving areas. (Range riders, vet treatment of injured calves, various preventative measures, etc.)... $9,000

Total lost income on 100 cow/calf pairs based on January 2015 cattle prices: $39,600

Related important data based on the 2013 State of Oregon Agriculture census:

Wallowa County Cows 38,500 Calves 21,500

Union County Cows 33,500 Calves 19,100

The above data is not meant to reflect $39,600 for every 100 cows in each county, as the wolf density presently varies by area; however the potential exists if wolf numbers ever approach the density of the forested populations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Presently almost all of the forested range area in Wallowa and Union counties have identified packs. Harassment and depredation are greatest in the portions of Wallowa County nearest the Idaho border. Umatilla and Baker counties both have packs and two more known packs exist, one in the Desolation area and one in SW Oregon.

Agriculture economists fundamentally agree that it takes a herd of between 350 and 400 head to provide a middle income living for a family of four. The loss of about $140,000 for such a family trickles down into all of the fabric of these rural communities. Fewer dollars are available for local businesses and services, such as schools, health care and law enforcement. These losses in natural resource based counties further increase the economic disparities that exist between the rural and urban Oregon economies. Ranchers in northeast Oregon have proven over the last 5 years that they understand that the presence of wolves is a reality and have worked tirelessly within the law to survive, but further expansion of wolves beyond the minimum number listed in the Oregon wolf plan is not acceptable. While the State has made an honest attempt to help reduce the economic impact, the dollars available are so limited and the reimbursement areas so narrow (1 in 7 of the animals killed by wolves are ever found — 2003 study) that these, although well meaning, are not close to meeting the real economic impact of high wolf populations. Cattle populations are much larger in Malheur and Harney counties with similar range grazing operations on more open country. Presently we do not have sufficient data to predict if the impact of wolves in areas such as these will be greater or less than the more forested area. Ranchers in Wallowa, Union, Umatilla, and Baker counties are suffering from wolf harassment and predation in varying degrees and this problem will get worse as wolf numbers increase and expansion moves to far more rural counties.

Note: This analysis was originally published in “Oregon Beef Producer” magazine, published by the Oregon Cattlmen’s Association.