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Gray wolves
The Seattle Times, May 3, 2011

Conservationists challenge plan to kill Ore wolves
By Jeff Barnard, The Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Federal wildlife authorities want to capture and kill two young wolves from the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon after another livestock kill.

Conservation groups responded Tuesday by filing a lawsuit in in U.S. District Court in Portland to block the killings, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not done the formal environmental review called for by law before making the decision.

The complaint noted that Wildlife Services, the agency that normally carries out decisions to kill wildlife causing problems for agriculture, agreed last year in a separate case that it would not kill wolves in Oregon until it had done an environmental review.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Janet Lebson said she could not comment on pending litigation. She added that the wolves would be killed by Fish and Wildlife personnel.

The service announced late Monday that an investigation determined a calf carcass found Saturday 10 miles east of Joseph was the result of a wolf kill. Wolf tracks were found about 1,000 feet away, and GPS tracking of one of the wolves in the pack showed it was within a half-mile of the site on Friday, when the attack was believed to have happened.

The agency said in a statement that nonlethal measures such as electric fences have not kept the pack from livestock, so lethal controls are in order.

The plan is to capture and kill two sub-adults from the pack, which numbers 10 to 14 wolves, to discourage the pack from attacking livestock without affecting breeding.

Two wolves from the same pack were under a state kill order last summer, but that was lifted after conservation groups challenged it in a similar lawsuit.

"Oregon's struggling wolf population cannot sustain these killings," Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. "Oregon wolves are nowhere near recovered and continue to need protection."

Greenwald said a provision of the Endangered Species Act that allowed wildlife agents to kill problem wolves in Idaho does not apply in Oregon, where they are still a federally threatened species.

Authorities have said wolves that began moving into Oregon from Idaho in the 1990s are responsible for some 40 livestock kills since 2009. About 25 wolves are believed to be in Oregon. Two packs are known to exist in the northeastern corner of the state and a third is believed to be roaming an area between Pendleton and the Washington border.

The lawsuit said federal agents killed two wolves in Oregon in 2009 and five others have been killed by poachers or died in accidents.

Copyright © 2011 The Seattle Times Company

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton