On December 12th, Senator Merkley introduced a groundbreaking resolution calling for a national strategy to protect biodiversity. This is a critical step in creating coordinated efforts to not only protect imperiled animals, plants, and ecosystems in the face of the biodiversity and climate crisis but to ensure these landscapes thrive. The resolution expresses a need for the United States to create a national biodiversity strategy to safeguard the diversity of life in the country. Such a strategy would:

– Encourage federal agencies to identify and pursue actions within existing laws and policies, including considering new ones. 

– Establish a new four-year assessment to monitor progress in combatting biodiversity loss.

“As the impacts of climate chaos become deadlier and more frequent—threatening our health, planet, and future—we must continue to do all we can to protect the precious biodiversity that keeps our planet strong, balanced, and healthy,” said Senator Merkley. “We must implement smart, well-coordinated efforts and solutions that work across all levels of government, business, and community leadership to preserve biodiversity for future generations.”

Biodiversity, a critical element to human health and wellbeing ensures food system security, disease prevention, medicine, clean drinking water, resiliency in the face of otherwise catastrophic events, and more. Protecting species and their landscapes not only has a moral imperative but also a clear positive outcome.

“We commend Senator Merkley’s leadership in protecting our most vulnerable wildlife, pollinators, and plants from the threat of extinction,” said Alijana Fisher, Wildlife Associate at Oregon Wild. “This milestone runs in tandem with the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act this month, a true testament to a national commitment to protecting biodiversity.” 

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year on December 28th, is a bipartisan, bedrock environmental law that has been successful in preventing extinction for over 99% of listed species. If not for the ESA and actions driven by the best available science, species such as the bald eagle, humpback whale, gray wolf, California condor, Oregon chub, and many others might have gone extinct. In addition to being incredibly successful, the ESA is also widely popular, with surveys repeatedly showing that a strong majority of Americans -80-90%- support this important law. 

In a landmark decision prioritizing wildlife conservation and public safety, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has implemented a nationwide ban on the use of M-44 cyanide devices on public lands it manages. M-44s, colloquially known as “cyanide bombs,” have been deployed by federal and state agencies, notably fish and wildlife agencies, to kill predators. While designed to target specific animals, like coyotes, considered threats to livestock grazing on public lands, these devices have tragically resulted in the unintended deaths of non-targeted wildlife and domestic dogs.

In 2018, an M-44 set by Wildlife Services, a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture most associated with wildlife killing, unintentionally killed a wolf. The East Oregonian newspaper opined that M-44s be removed from Oregon and that Wildlife Services “should be updated to include 21st Century technology and ethical and social mores.”

Placing something in our woods that indiscriminately kills canines — be they wolves or coyotes or family dogs — is not smart. For the safety of our family pets, and our family members out traipsing around the hills, removing all M-44s makes sense.

In Oregon, state legislators have been historically hostile or indifferent to wildlife conservation issues and were initially resistant to calls to ban M-44s. In a surprising reverse from previous years, a coalition including Oregon Wild and other wildlife conservation organizations succeeded in securing a near-unanimous vote to ban the “bombs” in 2019

“The eradication of M-44s from Oregon’s landscape would be so welcome,” said Danielle Clair, an Oregon resident who testified at both Senate and House hearings in support of the ban.  “But it’ll be 17 years too late for my best buddy and love, Oberon, my 7-year-old Great Dane/German shepherd who died by cyanide sodium poisoning in 2002. I can’t think of this as justice, as there is no return from such trauma.  But making people, pets and wildlife in Oregon safe from these devices would be an unmitigated success story.”

Ceremonial signing of SB 580 – the bill that banned M-44s in Oregon

The nationwide ban on M-44 cyanide bombs represents a pivotal moment in recognizing the urgent need for reform within Wildlife Services. As Oregon and the Bureau of Land Management take significant steps to safeguard public safety and wildlife, it becomes increasingly apparent that broader reforms are needed within federal and state agencies responsible for predator control. The tales of unintended casualties, from the tragic loss of beloved pets to the impact on non-targeted wildlife, underscore the imperative for a more humane, ecologically sound approach. Oregon Wild will continue to emphasize the importance of reforming Wildlife Services to ensure that wildlife management strategies align with contemporary conservation values, prioritizing the well-being of both human communities and the diverse ecosystems we inhabit.


Wildlife advocates howled a resounding “hooray” when Coloradoans passed a ballot initiative last year requiring a wolf reintroduction in the state. Restoring this iconic species back to its historic range in the West is something Oregon Wild unequivocally supports. What we didn’t expect is that the source wolves for that reintroduction would come from Oregon. With Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming as states with much larger populations (and much vitriol for the animal), we assumed they would be likely (happy) to translocate wolves to Colorado. But that’s not how it’s playing out.

Earlier this month, Oregon and Colorado wildlife officials announced their partnership to translocate up to ten wolves. Last year’s count reported Oregon has about 178 known wolves in the state. Given Oregon’s stalled growth rate the last few years due in large part to poaching, agency-sanctioned killing, and vehicle strikes, it’s unclear how removing that many wolves from the state population won’t negatively impact recovery. And as the saying goes, ‘we have mixed feelings about that.’ We’ve been working hard to ensure Oregon’s statewide wolf recovery stays on track and will be advocating for policies that ensure that the translocation of those 10 wolves is coupled with increased conservation measures.  

In other news, ODFW recently released this helpful video about wolf dispersal in Oregon. It’s educational, engaging, and doesn’t just focus on conflict (which we appreciate). Check it out and spread it far and wide! 


YOU DID IT! Thanks to your dedication and advocacy, last month, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to ban wildlife killing contests on public land! This is an important step forward in the effort to eliminate these abhorrent practices. We applaud the Commission for taking this necessary step, however, due to a competing state law, the Commission didn’t have full authority to pass an outright ban on private property. While this is disappointing, wildlife conservation advocates will continue to monitor the implementation of this new rule while also assessing other ways to pursue a complete ban

By now, you’re probably aware that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act – a law that has been critical in protecting our nation’s most vulnerable and imperiled fish, wildlife, and plants. We keep highlighting this important milestone because it is THAT important. As the climate and biodiversity crises intensify, we need every tool at our disposal to protect our most fragile species and ecosystems. And that starts with the Endangered Species Act.

Last month, Oregon Wild staff went to Washington, D.C., not just to celebrate the historic anniversary with partners and allies but also to make sure that our members of Congress know loud and clear: the ESA is vital in the fight against extinction. Together with the Executive Director of Elakha Alliance, constituents, and activists, we met with the Oregon delegation to ask for their support of the ESA and its role in addressing the biodiversity crisis.  

Photo: Representative Bonamici with wildlife advocates.

In the News

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, Oregon Wild’s Wildlife and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Associate got an opinion editorial published highlighting the importance of this anniversary and calling on our members of Congress to defend the Act!

Salmon is ecologically, culturally, and economically important to the Pacific Northwest. We applaud President Biden for directing federal agencies to restore wild salmon populations in the Columbia basin and honor tribal treaty rights.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are considering reintroducing three to seven grizzly bears to a portion of their historic range in the North Cascades, Washington. For folks interested in weighing in, a public comment period is open until November 13th. ​​​ 

Unveiling Nature’s Kaleidoscope

Oregon Wild showcased an imperiled species-themed mural in Portland in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

Wildlife advocacy combined with the emotional and storytelling power of art was an amazing way to highlight Oregon’s imperiled species. As you move closer towards 1350 NW Lovejoy Street, a majestic wolf with piercing amber eyes stares out over the city. The mural titled Nature’s Kaleidoscope features many culturally and ecologically important species in the region such as the resilient coho salmon, the elusive northern spotted owl, and the graceful monarch butterfly along with the western painted turtle, Oregon silverspot butterfly, Gentner’s fritillary, rough popcorn flower, and Howell’s spectacular thelypody.

Talented local artist Jeremy Nicols spent 14 days painting an intricate ecosystem of Pacific Northwest imperiled species in celebration of the historic 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). What better way to showcase this bedrock environmental law than with a stunningly vibrant 600-square-foot work of art?! The new mural in Portland’s Pearl District expresses through art the emotions Oregon Wild feels about wildlife: Awe, joy, and respect while strengthening our resolve to protect fish, wildlife, plants, and pollinators. 

The official unveiling event attended by conservationists, elected officials, tribal representatives, and public supporters underscored the message of the mural: A commitment to work together to prevent the extinction of species for the benefit and well-being of all. 

“The Endangered Species Act protects creatures great and small. While it’s true iconic species like the humpback whale, peregrine falcon, and bald eagle have been brought back from the brink of extinction, many smaller or lesser-known species benefit too,” said Alijana Fisher, Wildlife and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Associate for Oregon Wild. “When we safeguard biodiversity as a whole we invest in our future, as human health is directly connected to the health of the environment around us.”

Left image: Jeremy Nichols relaxes in front of the mural. Right image: Elected officials celebrate the mural, pictured from left to right are Congresswoman Bonamici, Jeremy Nicols, Councilwoman George of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Metro Council President Peterson, and Alijana Fisher.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) released the 2022 annual wolf report detailing the status of wolves in the state based on data collected last year. While the agency tried to put a positive spin on it by saying wolves in western Oregon were increasing, a deeper analysis shows the true nature of the report: another frustrating year of stagnant growth overall driven by human caused mortality. Major takeaways from the 2022 report:

  1. Human-caused mortality is still the number one factor in preventing full wolf recovery. Of the 20 known wolf mortalities in 2022, 17 were human-caused. That’s roughly 10% of the total population. There is only a single case of a wolf dying from natural causes. Here’s a quick breakdown of mortalities:
    • Known poaching: 7
    • Killed by ODFW staff in response to predation: 6
    • Killed by vehicles: 2
    • Shot by individuals: 2
    • Killed by a cougar: 1
    • Unknown: 2 
  2. The wolf population grew by only 3, bringing the total to 178 in 2022. Growth over the past several years has stalled, which is of major concern. Scientists estimate Oregon could sustainably support up to 1,450 wolves. With only 178 individuals, Oregon is well below carrying capacity. To further illustrate, this is the 13th year of wolf recovery in Oregon (2009-2022) and there are only 178 known wolves. Thirteen years into Idaho’s recovery, the state population was estimated at 846 wolves and no less than 428 in 88 packs as wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in 1995.
  3. A significant portion of deaths over the years (with 2 in 2022 and 4 in 2021) have been due to vehicle strikes. It is clear that wolves and other wildlife need safe places to cross major roads and highways. Oregon in particular lacks such connectivity infrastructure compared to other states in the region with just 5 crossings compared to Washington with over 30 and California with over 50.  
  4. Worryingly, there were two separate instances of people shooting wolves and not being prosecuted. Perhaps more disturbingly, in Wheeler County, someone shot a yearling collared wolf and claimed they thought it was a coyote. They only received a civil fine. There was also a wolf that had been reported as shot in Wallowa County, but was later recategorized as a vehicle strike – drawing skepticism from wildlife conservation advocates.
  5. Wolves are very social animals. Deaths within packs can have catastrophic impacts. As wolf numbers have plateaued in the last few years, depredation investigations and confirmed predations have increased significantly showing a vicious cycle that killing begets more killing as packs are sent into disarray. In other words, the increased rate of human killing has become normalized, while conflict and payouts to livestock managers – even for livestock that simply go missing – is increasing. Clearly, management through killing is counterproductive, as scientists have been saying for years. And payouts to the industry are not achieving their intended goal: building tolerance and reducing conflict
  6. ODFW has continued to fail to recover the wolf population in Oregon, which points to the need for a stronger wolf plan. It’s tough to be a wolf when in recent years, no less than 10-20% of Oregon’s wolves have been killed by people (mostly poachers and ODFW authorized kills). If ODFW can’t or won’t effectively address the pervasive poaching problem they must stop killing wolves. Additionally, this report should serve as a warning to promptly shut down the absurd idea that we need to hunt wolves for any reason. Endangered Species Act protections must also be reinstated. Where ODFW has management authority, the population is declining and the only reason the population grew at all is because wolves have begun to expand into new territory where they have federal protections. Prior to delisting, populations were growing by 43% annually. Since then, they’ve never been higher than 15%, and the last two years, they were less than 2%. These numbers track the state’s own worst-case scenario. 

For more information read our press statement here.

To read our analyses about previous years’ wolf reports, check it out here.

Sign up for our upcoming webcast to learn more about wolves here and how to help protect them here.

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