Ted Birdseye

Southern Oregon rancher Ted Birdseye in February fired up an inflatable dancing tube man, loaned by the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, to scare wolves away from the pasture where he grazes cattle.

By HOLLY DILLEMUTH

A GoFundMe account has been set up by a southern Oregon advocacy group with the goal of protecting both wolves and livestock.

KS Wild, based in Ashland, set up the crowdsourcing effort to help build a 6-foot-tall electric fence to keep wolves, including OR-7 and the Rogue Pack, off the 270-acre Prospect area property owned by Ted Birdseye, a former Klamath Falls resident. The account has so far raised $1,500 of its $6,000 goal for the fencing, and plans are to build it this summer, according to Joseph Vaile, executive director of KS Wild.

The project will be funded by both U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon Department of Agriculture, per request from Jackson County’s wolf committee. John Stephenson, wolf specialist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Oregon, anticipates the fence to cost approximately $45,000 total, including the funding raised by KS Wild.

Stephenson said he was encouraged to see donations coming in for the project.

“I hope the momentum continues,” Stephenson said.

Klamath ties

Birdseye taught school at Brixner Junior High in the late 1970s, and he and his family have called the Mil-Mar cattle ranch near Prospect and Butte Falls home since 2015.

The 66-year-old rancher has lost eight or nine cows to the Rogue pack in about three years, not counting dogs that went missing or weren’t fully recovered.

“OR-7, for whatever reason, when he came to southern Oregon decided to call this home, and every litter of pups he’s fathered has been six and a half miles from this place,” Birdseye said.

He believes it could be due to a herd of elk that is said to have once wintered on the grounds, which has since disbursed. Since that time, the wolves are setting sights on Birdseye’s cattle.

“There’s an existing fence here already,” Birdseye said, noting different groups built it in the 1970s.

But a new 6-foot-tall fence could utilize wiring already in place to help keep wolves from Birdseye’s ranch.

“Every other wire, or something like that, will be hot (electric),” Birdseye said. “It will be run with a solar backup.”

“It’s not that I need a fence for my cattle,” he said, noting a fence already keeps his cattle on the ranch.

But current fencing doesn’t stop wolves from entering the property, where he has approximately 200 head of cattle, as well as some horses.

Unique perspective

Birdseye is as friendly as they come, to both wolves and humans. He has a unique perspective on wolves particularly, having a background of interest in animal science, and specifically a fondness for wolves.

He cared for wolf pups under the tutelage of a Southern Oregon University professor and eventually raised a female pup himself to the age of 17.

“She was one of the most interesting animals I’ve ever been around,” Birdseye said. “Really socially oriented toward the family.”

But he’s also interested in keeping his family and livestock safe.

“There’s a place for wolves, but it’s not in my backyard,” Birdseye said. “If they were to stay in the wilderness, that’d be fine.”

Using enhanced fencing, he wants to deter the pack from entering his property.

“He has been here and lives here and has been causing problems with the stockmen from here all the way to Fort Klamath,” Birdseye said. “It’s an issue that I’ve tried to deal with in a legal and reasonable manner.

“My calves – they’ve done quite a number on them,” he added. “It’s been a frustrating situation.”

Close to home

He’s also focused on protecting his two young children, ages 5 and 8, who often play in the driveway of the home.

Birdseye has had close encounters with wolves on the property as well, including in the summer of 2017.

He saw what he believes was OR-25 about 35 to 40 yards from the driveway during the middle of the day, as he was on a tractor.

“Out of the corner of my eye, I thought it was a bear,” Birdseye said.

“He was a beautiful, beautiful animal – smoky gray,” he added. “He was sniffing a stump.”

“It’s a little bit of a concern,” Birdseye added, with his young family in close proximity. “You just wonder what would trigger that instinct to chase; you know a screaming kid or a running kid.”

Pausing to count, Birdseye said, “I’ve had opportunities to shoot six of these wolves if that’d been something that I would do but, they’re federally protected, state-protected and everything else.”

‘Dancing men’

Since relocating to his ranch near Prospect from the Rogue Valley, Birdseye has used non-lethal methods to deter wolves from his property. One of the most notable is using faux 10- to 12-feet-tall “dancing men” with flailing arms operated by a generator. The strategy he said is similar to something one might see on a car sales lot.

“Everyone kind of hoped that was going to be a silver bullet,” Birdseye said.

Birdseye watched the method fail firsthand as wolves would approach the waving men from as close as 45 yards.

“They weren’t the least bit worried about it,” Birdseye said. “We were hoping that was kind of going to keep them at bay.”

Birdseye has participated in the state’s compensation program that helps ranchers who experience depredations by wolves on their property. But not all kills can be confirmed, as he’s found out.

“There may be a place for wolves but there are places they don’t belong as well,” Birdseye said.

For those interested in learning more about the fundraising effort, go online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-up-protect-wolf-or7-and-rogue-pack.

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