Crook County is using $3,000 in grant money to help with bone pile removal on local ranches

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE - Crook County is mounting a bone pile removal program to prevent the attraction of wolves to the area.

Wolves have yet to enter Crook County borders, and they may not arrive for a long time, but that doesn't mean community leaders won't be ready.

For the past three years, members of a local wolf depredation committee have met to develop non-lethal methods of preventing the predatory animal from killing livestock. Such committees have been formed in eight Oregon counties east of the Cascade Mountains as part of the Oregon Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance County Block Grant Program.

The Crook County committee recently received $3,000 out of $105,000 in statewide grants, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, that will go toward proactive, non-lethal efforts to reduce the conflict between wolves and livestock. Those efforts include a variety of methods — fencing, range rider guards, and livestock protection dogs — the local committee has chosen to focus their grant funding on a bone pile removal program on county ranches.

“Throughout the West, ranchers typically have an area somewhere on their ranch where bones tend to accumulate — dead carcasses, dead animals,” said Chris Gannon, committee secretary. “The bad news is it draws wolves in. If you don’t want wolves on your livestock, the best thing to do is keep them (bones) away from your place and don’t put out any attractants.”

While the state is supporting several different deterrents, Gannon said that they will put their full $3,000 allotment toward the bone pile program exclusively.

“Not only is it the best thing you can do,” he said, “based on the little amount of money we have, it is probably the best way to use those resources.”

This week, committee members will meet to discuss where they will focus their bone pile removal efforts. Although no official decisions have been made, the general belief is the work will take place in the Paulina area, southeast of Prineville.

“We want to make sure, but that area of the state is where the wolves are coming from,” said committee chair Seth Crawford. “We have one person who is interested already.”

At this point, nobody knows for sure when or if wolves will arrive in Crook County. So far, Wallowa, Umatilla, and Baker counties have seen the bulk of the state’s wolf activity. However, committee members don’t want to get caught off guard.

“They are being reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone (Park), and these populations are expanding and doing quite well in some cases in terms of their prolific breeding nature,” Gannon said. “The way wolf packs work is they have to disperse themselves from the pack. Young males and females have to leave the pack and establish their own pack and get their own territories ... We don’t want to be ill-prepared.”

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