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Open range does not mean open season on livestock

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Dry weather and other factors in Eastern Oregon are causing grazing animals to venture far and wide for food. The result can sometimes lead to tragedy:

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Current conditions east of the Cascades are causing livestock to leave the pasture sooner than normal and look for better quality feed in a neighbor’s field. Rodger Huffman of the Oregon Department of Agriculture says that in those areas where it is considered open range, there is nothing unlawful going on:

HUFFMAN:  “People that don’t want livestock animals on their property– in their yards, in their gardens, or in their flower pot– it doesn’t say they must fence them out. But because of that definition, it infers that.”  :15

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In fact, open range allows livestock to lawfully run at-large. The burden is on the property owner to keep animals out rather the livestock owner to keep them confined to their own property:

HUFFMAN:  “There’s a perception that anybody’s animals that are encroaching on you, on private land, are trespassing. That’s kind of where the rub is.”  :10

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Last month, a doctor in La Grande was charged in the shooting of seven cows that had come onto his property, killing six of them. In this case, because it was not open range but a livestock district, the animals were trespassing and the owner could be cited. Nonetheless, Huffman says there is no justification for shooting the animals. The advice to property owners with encroaching livestock is to be tolerant, contain the animals if possible, try to find the owner, and if you can’t, contact ODA to determine ownership. In Salem, I’m Bruce Pokarney.

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HUFFMAN says the lack of moisture in most of Eastern Oregon is leading to some potential conflicts between livestock and unsuspecting property owners:

“It’s causing and will continue to cause animals to be out of pasture sooner and also looking for better quality feed in the neighbor’s field..”  :11

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HUFFMAN says Oregon’s open range law allows livestock to run at-large in those areas, and the burden is on property owners to fence them out:

“When these animals wander into the urban-rural interface, they may be in open range. There may not be anything unlawful about what’s happening there.”  :09

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