Oregon’s fledgling wolf population reached a new milestone last year, producing enough new pups to push the state’s total wolf count into the triple digits. Wolves throughout Oregon are delisted from the state Endangered Species Act (ESA). Wolves are still protected by the Wolf Plan and Oregon statute.
This increase in the wolf population is causing damage to local ranchers as reports to attacks on livestock have increased at a problematic rate. For the first time, Oregon is considering allowing ranchers to kill the wolves under a “limited duration wolf kill permit,” rather than rely on state officials.
Special Wolf Kill Permit
Environmentalists worry that issuing a special permit to hunt wolves would create a financial incentive for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to allow more opportunities. But environmental groups strongly oppose any public hunting of the state’s roughly 150 wolves. Idaho has a more robust wolf population than Oregon but also has legalized hunting. Somewhere between nine and 14 wolves have been illegally killed in Oregon since 2007, according to police reports and ODFW data. That number may be higher, given most of the wolves tallied were wearing radio-collars.
4 Legal Avenues
In response to these attacks Oregon is moving to legalize the hunting of gray wolves under 4 legal avenues. These four avenues would be caught attacking a cow, caught attacking a human, or proven to have killed two cows. Also special permits given to residents who live in a highly wolf populated area. It would also be granted to those who have suffered multiple attacks on their livestock.
Even more controversial than allowing the public to hunt is the proposal that wolves be eliminated for “causing major declines of ungulate populations.” Environmental groups say killing wolves to save a population of elk or mule deer is premature and unnecessary. And, they said, wolves bring equilibrium to the ungulate population.
The proposal only applies to wolves in the eastern third of Oregon. This proposal only comes after they have reached seven breeding pairs for three consecutive years. This is phase 3 of the state’s wolf plan. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will discuss the proposals during a meeting on April 21 in Klamath Falls.