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Oregon rancher uses inflatable dancer to shoo wolves

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MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A rancher in Jackson County who has had gray wolves eat his livestock is now using a lime-green inflatable dancing man to keep the predators at bay.

Ted Birdseye began using the contraption Saturday in his pasture after the pack killed another calf in the same field where the wolves have already eaten five calves and one guard dog, The Mail Tribune reported Tuesday.

The device is the same as those commonly seen a used car lots and is powered by a generator that blows air into the balloon so it jumps and wiggles in the air.

"He's all lit up and dancing around in the field," Birdseye told the newspaper. "He's lime green. It looks like an alien at night."

Birdseye said he doesn't know whether the flailing dancer will be a long-term deterrent to the pack preying on his cattle in the remote field, but the first two nights proved successful.

"Last night was the best sleep I've had since September with these animals," Birdseye said. "A solid eight hours of sleep. There was no howling or barking going on.

"We don't know if the deterrence was a factor or if it's a coincidence," he said.

The air dancer is one of two that arrived Saturday, the day after the latest attack, Birdseye said. They were sent by the Defenders of Wildlife conservation group, but only one generator came with them, so he could deploy only one, he said.

At around 1 a.m. Friday, Birdseye was awakened by wolf howls and his dogs barking, so he went out on his four-wheeler to investigate. Birdseye said he apparently scared the wolves away, but he found a wounded 4-month-old, 180-pound calf on the ground.

The calf had about 8 feet of intestine protruding from its anus, so Birdseye used a pistol to euthanize the animal, he said.

The dead calf was investigated later that day by a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife whose report states the calf showed clear signs of predator attack, with the size, number and location of the wounds similar to wolf attacks on calves.

Friday's attack marked the 10th confirmed livestock or dog kill attributed to the Rogue Pack since late September in the pack's known area of activity in western Jackson and eastern Klamath counties, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"People need to realize these wolves are majestic creatures, but they're killers," Birdseye said. "It's getting pretty frustrating."

Of the 10 predation cases involving the Rogue Pack since late September, five were on Birdseye's ranch in the Boundary Butte area, and one was in the Rancheria area, according to ODFW. Four were in late September and early October in the Wood River Valley near Klamath Falls.

Birdseye also lost a guard dog to the wolves last fall.

Birdseye said he has about 90 calves in the field where the killings have occurred. In the past, he's used guard dogs, electric fences installed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lights, bright flags and noisemakers to scare off the offending pack. He turned to the inflatable dancers after hearing about some success with them in Eastern Oregon.

Birdseye said OR-7 has been near his ranch almost annually since the wolf settled in eastern Jackson County after his famous migration from Eastern Oregon in search of a mate.

Birdseye, who sits on Jackson County's Wolf Advisory Committee, has been compensated $1,000 each for three of his cattle losses, and restitution for his other losses are in the pipeline.

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OR-7, who got his name from his long-since dead GPS collar, which used to allow biologists to track his whereabouts, and his pack are the only known wolf pack established in Western Oregon, where wolves are protected as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

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