June Wildlife Update: Legislative recap, wolves, and standing up for the ESA

Metolius wolf from ODFW

It’s never a good idea to feed wildlife. Not only do they lose their fear of humans, but they are also more likely to find themselves in a situation that’s unsafe for them or the human(s) they’re near. Unfortunately, earlier this month, we learned of a wolf (male yearling, OR 143) who was almost certainly being fed by humans from their cars. According to ODFW officials, “It was seen approaching and laying down near vehicles on Highway 138 and Bird Point Road, not reacting to human voices, honking horns, traffic, and vehicle noises”. That desensitization likely caused this wolf to lose the fear of cars and humans, ultimately resulting in his death by a vehicle strike. 

Any wolf fatality is unwelcome news. However, this particular one is especially tragic given that he was a member of a newly established pack territory in Western Oregon. As a refresher, this is the portion of the state that still has federal endangered species protections for wolves, as the population has struggled to fully reestablish there. Because of this low population in Western Oregon, even just one fatality has the potential to set back recovery. 

For those who have been tracking the Oregon legislative session this year, you know it has been a dramatic one. Though we wish we could say Republican-led walkouts were a rarity, unfortunately, it has become an all-too-common tactic used by the party to stall legislation, create chaos, and in most cases, throw natural resource issues (like wildlife) under the bus. In 2022, voters passed a ballot measure to thwart this behavior; however, that didn’t stop Republican state senators from walking out again.

Though there were some critical victories this session for forests, wildlife, and waters, overall, conservation did not come out on top. To name a few (of the positive outcomes), the legislature passed a bill to invest in natural climate solutions, improve ecosystem resilience and better inventory carbon capture and storage by Oregon’s forests, wetlands and agricultural lands. Additionally, Oregon finally removed the terrible (and scientifically incorrect) ‘predatory’ classification from beavers on private land, allowing ODFW to manage the species better, collect and fill critical data gaps across all landscapes, and ultimately, restore beaver populations in Oregon.

On the flip side, there were several proposals this year to expand the wolf depredation compensation program, including two which would have given livestock owners a five- or even seven-times multiplier for cows that wolves killed! An egregious proposition and one that wildlife advocates were able to take down. Instead, the legislature increased funding for the existing program without making necessary changes to accountability, oversight, and misuse of program funds. 

Finally, the legislature passed HB 3086, which completely restructured the makeup of the Fish and Wildlife Commission. With the addition of a 6th Congressional seat, the Commission structure required updating to comply with the law. However, what wasn’t required was a wholesale overhaul of the structure - especially one that limited the voice of the majority. Unfortunately, as initiated, HB 3086 did just that: based commission seats on land allocation over people representation. The debate over this bill was a tumultuous one. Though we ultimately helped negotiate a less bad version of the bill (namely, maintain some proportionate representation and remove requirements that commission candidates belong to specific user groups), a troubling precedent was set that every Oregonian does not have an equal say in how our state’s fish and wildlife are conserved and managed. 





Whenever wolves repopulate a new territory in Oregon, there’s an opportunity and renewed need for education and tools to foster effective coexistence and reduce conflict. That was our main message in an op-ed published by the Bend Source earlier this month.  

The Biden administration plans to reverse some terrible rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act that the Trump administration made; however, does it go far enough? ​​​ 

Love hiking (or are new to it) and want to see some spectacular Oregon landscapes with an Oregon Wild guide? Then check out our list of summer hikes (more coming soon), and don’t forget to sign up for one today!

​The Endangered Species Act is one of the most successful wildlife protection laws. Still, it is under attack by fossil fuel, logging, and agribusiness groups and their lobbyists in Washington, DC. Anti-wildlife members of Congress have introduced nearly 20 bills to roll back the ESA this year!  

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is uniquely positioned to push back on these threats. Please take action, urging him to be a champion for wildlife by taking a stand against extinction!