All the News That Isn't Fit to Print
Putting wolves and the livestock industry in context.
A number of recent non-wolf news stories prompted us to think about the total lack of context that tends to accompany news coverage of livestock losses to wolves.
Here are some headlines you probably didn't see...but they're all true:
- 95 sheep died last week from eating poisoned grass in Idaho after their owner illegally grazed his herd in an abandoned mine (link).
- Earlier this month domestic dogs killed 44 sheep in Wyoming in a single incident. That's about the number killed in the entire state by wolves last year (link).
- 44 unattended cows were killed by trucks near Madras when they broke through a fence in September. The trucks didn't come out of it well either (link).
- Last year an Amtrak train killed 24 cows that broke through an unmaintained fence near Klamath Falls. The rancher felt entitled to compensation (link).
- Over 1,200 cows have been stolen by human thieves in Malheur County alone from 2006 - 2009 (link).
- A single storm in Montana killed over 2,250 livestock (link).
- In 2002, 600 cows died in Harney County after eating bad hay. (link)
Oregon is home to over 1.3 million cows. In 2010 (the year for which statistics are most recently available), 55,000 died from weather, disease, poison, and all sorts of other causes before they made it to the slaughterhouse (link and commentary). ODFW confirmed less than one-tenth of one percent of that number fell to wolves since 2008 (ODFW page).
However, wolves are so politicized and sensationalized that the agency charged with conserving wildlife for all Oregonians is compelled to issue a press release any time wolves are even suspected of killing, injuring, or chasing livestock.
Such non-news recently prompted the Onion-esque headline "Calf Found Dead, Not Killed By Wolves" in the La Grande Observer, and fuels anti-wolf hysteria amongst those who still fear wolves. Worse yet, for most Oregonians it gives false credibility to the myth that wolves are terrorizing the livestock industry (wolf myths).
Context matters and it simply isn't being provided. So the next time ODFW or the livestock industry issues a press release or statement about how wolves are to blame for the loss of livestock, we hope you'll keep this piece in mind.