PNP comment: There too many wolves if they are attacking horses. Wolves must be managed for their own protection. And yes, management means limiting the number. — Editor Liz Bowen
Wolf’s attack on horses cut short
By Rob Ruth
Wallowa County Chieftain | Posted: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 2:42 pm
ZUMWALT PRAIRIE – One of rancher Casey Tippett’s cattle-working saddle horses continues on the job after catching a lucky break a couple of weeks ago.
According to Tippett, the horse was one of four that was attacked in a pasture early in the evening on May 24. Fortunately, another rancher in the area, Duane Voss, was driving by at the time of the attack, and the wolf broke it off and fled as Voss’s rig approached.
Voss quickly found someone in the local area who had Tippett’s phone number. Tippett, contacted at his Enterprise home, reached the scene in less than an hour. Not far behind him were Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts and Marlyn Riggs, USDA Wildlife Services’ local investigator of predator-related incidents.
Riggs and Tippett inspected all four horses the wolf had chased, but only one – a tall Quarter Horse gelding – appeared to have undergone physical contact from the predator. There were welts running vertically down the animal’s right flank.
Tippett said Riggs determined that the marks were from a biting wolf. At Riggs’ bidding, Roberts and Tippett took turns feeling the welts while Riggs described the evidence.
The pasture’s conditions – high grass and hard-compacted dirt – weren’t very good for preserving or locating animal tracks, but Riggs managed to find one faint wolf print.
The finding in Riggs’ report was “confirmed” wolf attack. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which conducted its own field investigation the following day, listed a far different finding, however: “other.”
ODFW’s written report of its investigation, posted at the agency’s website late last week, noted the eyewitness account of the wolf chasing horses (only “two horses,” according to the report, a point Tippett believes is in error), but, unlike Riggs, ODFW field investigator Vic Coggins found no wolf tracks “or other sign of wolves” at the scene. The agency’s radio-tracking data also showed no collared wolves in the area at the time of the attack.
Perhaps most pivotal to ODFW’s determination, the horse didn’t seem to be hurt. It was, in fact, saddled for working with cattle on May 25. “The horse showed a minor scrape on its right hip, but no serious injury. The scrape appeared to be superficial only and had no broken skin and there was no evidence of swelling or fluid under the scrape. The cause of the minor scrape is unknown,” the report states.
Tippett says the horse’s welts had gone down by the time ODFW investigated.
Bruce Eddy, ODFW’s Northeast Region manager, says the finding of “other” doesn’t mean the agency disbelieves the eyewitness account of the wolf chasing the horses. He says connecting that activity to the horse’s small injury, though, is a steep climb. “If you want to connect those dots based on the evidence we have before us, you can’t,” he said.
And though USDA Wildlife Services and ODFW use the same four categories for their depredation findings – “confirmed,” “probable,” “possible/unknown,” and “other” – “we’re operating under a different set of rules of engagement,” Eddy says. Most significantly, a finding of “confirmed” by ODFW could set the stage for lethal control measures, “and that carries some weight,” Eddy says.
Currently, wolf advocacy groups have ODFW’s practice of lethal control tied up in court.