June 23, 2014 – by Dominic Aiello, President
Does Oregon have too many predators? What are the impacts on Oregon’s deer and elk as a result of our overpopulation of predators? Does science support claims that predators impact hunting?
These were the questions the wildlife experts from Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho addressed on June 14th at the Albany fairgrounds. If you were unable to attend – simply put – you missed an excellent day for sportsmen! With just shy of 125 sportsmen in attendance wildlife experts distributed a large volume of scientific information that supports sportsmen claims, every day hunters gave emotional testaments to the status of our game population and the current state of hunting in Oregon.
To top it off, a passionate debate broke out between an Oregon state legislator and a director of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife!
The REAL Experts
Our first speaker, Pat Valkenburg, worked as a Caribou Research Biologist, Research Coordinator, and Deputy Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from 1977 to 2010. During this time he conducted research on caribou, wolves, bears, and moose. He has also designed and implemented experimental predator control programs and has been involved in developing policies on predator management for ADF&G. He has authored or coauthored over 50 technical papers on caribou, moose, wolves and bears. To say he is qualified on this topic is an understatement.
Early in calving when the wolves are hungry they eat the entire calf they kill. Then as calves become more abundant wolves shift to killing and only eat small portions of the calves. Finally, as the majority of calves have been birthed and wolves no longer need substance they begin to wound or kill large quantities of calves without eating any portion.
Photos above show examples of each stage.
Boom and Bust? No, predation CAN cause extirpation!
There have been cases in Alaska where there are small caribou herds that have numbered up to 5000 caribou (Unimak Island) where food has become limiting because of high population size and herd decreases. Once the herd is low–in the hundreds–wolf and bear predation has caused a further decline and prevented recovery. On Unimak now, we predict the caribou herd will disappear, largely because of wolf predation. There are about 15 bulls left on the island and about 200 cows that are all over about 8 years old. Essentially no calves have been able to survive for about 8 years.
There are several other small caribou herds (Beaver Mts, Sunshine Mts, Wolf Mtn) that have numbered up to 600 in the past, but have persisted at very low levels (<100) now for about 20 years because of heavy predation.
Another herd (Chisana) has numbered up to 3000 but since the Park Service took over the area in 1980, the herd has declined to a few hundred. It has been well studied and predation is definitely the controlling factor.
In the Yukon Flats, where there is an abundance of food for moose but predation by black bears and grizzly bears results in so few surviving calves that large areas (thousands of square miles) are devoid of moose. There are so many black bears in some of those areas that the situation is really beyond our ability to do anything about it.
Emotions, Anger, and Tears
Speaking of hunter harvest being severely limited, emotions ran high during the question and answer portion of Bruce Johnson’s (ODFW Biologist) presentation. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would not allow Bruce to answer any questions regarding management policies. Instead, Ron Anglin, who was not invited to participate in the presentations, took the liberty to walk up to the podium and answer questions directed at Bruce. Besides being incredibly rude, it was a mistake – which he quickly acknowledged, as he opened himself to the wrath of disenfranchised sportsmen.
Despite the agency’s large volume of cougar studies that have shown cougar predation is a major limiting factor in ungulate recruitment, he was unwilling to say predators impact hunter opportunity.
After being on the receiving end of some very upset hunter questions the tone of the room changed. A hunter from the Troutdale area told his story (paraphrased):
I can no longer feed my family from game meat, but every year I’m forced to pay a new or increased fee for the “opportunity” to attempt to take game animals. Yet, I receive nothing in return and the reality is I’m seeing fewer and fewer animals year after year.
He apologized for his tears and emotion as the room erupted in applause.
It was at that point Representative Brad Witt (D) stood up and asked to speak. He acknowledged the pain sportsmen feel is due to a problem within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and how they’re currently managing our wildlife, specifically predators.
He said that 2014 is the first year he did not purchase a sportspac because he no longer sees the value in it. Rep. Witt stated that if he has opted out as a state legislator then there is no doubt the same pain is felt by the average hunter. However, he continued, it is our job as Oregonians to correct ODFW’s course. He reiterated something that the Oregon Outdoor Council has been saying from day one; the minority of politicians in this state are preventing real change to take place.
So What Are We Going To Do?
The Oregon Legislative Sportsmen Caucus is the largest caucus in Oregon. Sixty legislators have joined the caucus. There are only ninety legislators total. That means 2/3rds of the legislators (Democrats and Republicans) in Oregon understand and appreciate your lifestyle and are willing to stand up for it! This is good news.
The bad news is the other 1/3 are urban democrats, which currently hold positions of power, don’t care about your lifestyle. That doesn’t mean we can’t win, but it means we need to continue to be diligent and hound our legislators like the cougars, wolves, bears, and coyotes are hounding our deer and elk.
Even though anti-hunting groups have made every attempt to discredit, discourage, and vilify the Oregon Outdoor Council we remain strong. As such, the Oregon Outdoor Council has drafted, in cooperation with state legislators, an unprecedented ELEVEN pro-sportsmen bills that will be introduced during the 2015 session! These bills range from more protection for sportsmen from anti-hunting / animal right extremist bullying, intimidation, and electronic harassment to predator management. As we get closer to this session we will provide more details.
Will you help the Oregon Outdoor Council make “2015: Oregon Outdoor Council’s Year of the Sportsmen“? Stand with us – join the Oregon Outdoor Council now (http://oregonoutdoorcouncil.org/annual-membership/) for $25 and receive a free survival bracelet – made right here in Oregon from 8 feet of 550 paracord!