For Immediate Release
Oregon Wild Press Statement on Unconfirmed Wolf Poaching in Umatilla National Forest
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) confirmed with the Associated Press yesterday that a male gray wolf from the Wenaha Pack was found dead in the Umatilla National Forest. The wolf was fitted in early August with a radio collar to help agency officials track the movements of the pack – one of only two wolf packs known in Oregon. Oregon Wild has heard from multiple sources that the wolf from the Wenaha Pack was illegally shot and discovered on Thursday, September 30. Federal officials investigating the incident have thus far been unwilling to comment on the rumor that the wolf was shot to death.
Response from Tim Lillebo, Eastern Oregon Wildlands Advocate for Oregon Wild and a lifelong elk and deer hunter:
"A person who poaches any animal is worthy of nothing but contempt. Values like respect for wildlife and for laws meant to protect them are at the very core of America’s conservation ethic.
Killing this wolf is especially despicable considering there is almost no chance that the criminal could have mistaken it for anything other than a collared wolf. Its bulky black collar would have been very hard not to notice, and memorable photos of this silver-haired wolf had been featured in newspapers and on web sites across the state.
Worst of all, poaching incidents like this demonstrate the likely results of the reckless and inaccurate rhetoric of anti-wildlife organizations. In recent months we have seen these groups make public statements in northeast Oregon encouraging lawlessness and creating an atmosphere of hatred for wolves and other wildlife. It is truly a sad day for conservation when special interest groups create an atmosphere where some people feel it is okay to break the law and kill an endangered animal."
Oregon is home to an estimated 20 wolves, and they are again protected under the federal Endangered Species Act after an August ruling from a federal court in Montana. This incident, if confirmed, would mark the third wolf poaching in Oregon since the late 1990s. In 2007, when a wolf was illegally shot and killed in Union County, Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity offered a $4,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the guilty party. The poacher was not found and the reward was never claimed.
Aside from poaching, Oregon’s wolves have also faced threats from heavy-handed management. Two wolves from the Imnaha Pack were killed by federal animal control agents in the summer of 2009 after livestock depredations in the Keating Valley. Unlike the Imnaha Pack, the Wenaha Pack has stayed up in the high country and has not encountered any conflict with ranchers or livestock. The pack has three pups and the silver male reported to be dead was described as in “good condition” when collared in August. This poaching demonstrates that the last thing wildlife managers and Oregon lawmakers need to do is make it easier to kill wolves as some organizations have lobbied for in recent months.
A high resolution photo of the dead wolf can be found here.
Update 10/8/2010: Oregon Wild along with local citizens, conservation groups, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are offering a $10,000 reward for information about the poaching.