For Immediate Release, July 2, 2010
||Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343, ext. 210
Wolves Earn Reprieve as Hunt Is Halted
Wildlife Advocates Celebrate Short-term Victory for Endangered Wolves
PORTLAND, Ore.— In response to a lawsuit by four conservation groups challenging the legality of a state-sponsored hunt of two of Oregon’s 14 endangered wolves, Wildlife Services voluntarily agreed today not to kill any wolves in Oregon for at least four weeks. The conservation groups asserted that the federal wildlife-control agency did not follow appropriate steps in carrying out the thus-far unsuccessful hunt. The groups claimed that had the agency done so, they would have found the continued hunt was inappropriate and unnecessary. Wolves are responsible for six livestock deaths this year but none in nearly a month.
Ultimately, it was the state of Oregon that authorized the ongoing hunt. The groups are in the process of filing a claim against the state for breaking its own rules and the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.
“Oregon’s struggling wolf population has been given a reprieve,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “With a mere 14 wolves in the state, killing two has a big impact. We’re glad this won’t be happening — at least for now.”
“Most Oregonians value native wildlife and were saddened to see the state violate the trust we put into the wolf conservation plan,” said Rob Klavins, Roadless Wildlands Advocate for Oregon Wild. “With only 14 wolves and one breeding pair in the state, killing wolves should be the option of last resort. We expected better and are disappointed it took a court action to do the right thing.”
The state’s wolf plan was developed in 2005 and is currently under a mandated five-year review. Conservationists have asked for some changes and clarifications to ensure wolf recovery and reduce conflict. They raised concerns earlier this week when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife relaxed rules defining chronic depredation, thus making it easier to kill wolves. The rule change came despite an ongoing public review process. The plan does allow for killing depredating wolves, and last year, two Oregon wolves were killed in response to depredations on private lands. Despite the harsh measures allowed by the plan, some interests have argued for gutting it and taking management decisions away from professional biologists.
“Oregon is big enough for both wolves and people,” said Sean Stevens of Oregon Wild. “We honored the good-faith efforts made by all the stakeholders in developing the wolf plan. But when the agencies entrusted with its implementation began breaking their own rules, and the governor failed to act, we had no choice but to take them to court.”
The reprieve only lasts until July 30 and could resume if further chronic depredations occur.
“Living with wolves and wildlife is part of living near the big wild places in the West,” concluded Josh Laughlin, campaign director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Today’s news buys a bit of time for Oregon’s budding wolf population, yet it remains critical that the Oregon wolf plan is properly followed in the future to allow for a successful recovery and less unnecessary conflict.”
The kill order stems from recent livestock depredations by wolves in Wallowa County. In May and early June, six cattle deaths were confirmed as wolf depredations. For comparison, in 2005 — the year the wolf plan was created — domestic dogs killed 700 sheep and cows in Oregon, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. No new livestock depredations have occurred since June 4.
According to the groups, Oregon’s wildlife agency is violating the wolf management plan by issuing the kill permits when damage is not presently occurring, the wolves are not on the land where damage is occurring, and multiple carcass dump piles were left on ranch lands resulting in “unreasonable circumstances” attracting wolves to the area. Had Wildlife Services conducted the proper environmental analysis, the agency would have realized that wolves pose no current depredation threat and hunting them is inappropriate. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has also failed to document how efforts by ranchers to avoid depredations through nonlethal means were “deemed ineffective,” or to document unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation through nonlethal means — both requirements of the plan.
Oregon is currently home to a confirmed population of 14 wolves in two packs, both in northeast Oregon. The Imnaha pack of 10 is led by wolf B-300. Another pack of four wolves located in the Wenaha wildlife unit was caught on film for the first time earlier this spring. The Oregon wolf plan is currently undergoing a mandated five-year review process. With a current population of fewer than 14 confirmed wolves, conservationists are working to fully fund the wolf plan and empower biologists to make decisions regarding the state-listed endangered species.