Zach Urness , Statesman Journal
Nineteen Oregon lawmakers have requested that wolf hunting remain off the table to members of the public.
In a March 27 letter, the lawmakers — all Democrats — request that Oregon’s fish and wildlife commission avoid opening the door to something they said would “greatly increase polarization and controversy over wolf management.”
The letter stems from a proposal that could allow members of the public to hunt “problem wolves” — animals that attack livestock or cause a major decline in game populations.
“Deputizing members of the public to hunt or trap wolves for ODFW is a slippery slope to an open hunting and trapping season,” the letter says.
The proposal would only apply to wolves already targeted for lethal action in eastern Oregon. State officials have stressed that no sport hunting for wolves is planned and that the proposal is only a management technique being considered.
“We’re not looking to create a hunting opportunity,” ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said in a story published in the Statesman Journal on Feb. 9. “This would be a ‘controlled take’ intended to address damage in very specific circumstances.”
The idea has been part of Oregon’s wolf plan since 2005, but only applies now that wolves have reached a high enough population threshold in the eastern third of the state. Oregon is home to an estimated 150 wolves, the vast majority in the state’s northeast corner.
Hunting groups pointed out that the lawmakers who signed the letter were almost entirely from urban areas and don’t face first-hand issues with wolves.
“What’s most egregious is that of these 19 legislators, 14 are from the Portland metro area — an area that will ultimately be least impacted by wolves or wolf hunting,” said Sereena Thompson, a board member of the Oregon Outdoor Council.
The groups also pointed out that the wolves in question would be killed regardless of who pulled the trigger.
“Right now, a wolf biologist goes out and shoots the wolves when there’s a problem,” said Jim Akenson, conservation director for the Oregon Hunters Association in February. “Why not utilize the situation in a manner that provides a hunting opportunity, while also serving a management need?”
Environmental groups, and the lawmakers who sent the letter, disagreed.
“Taking a strong stand today will help Oregon avoid the bitter social conflict and divisiveness sport hunting and trapping of wolves has caused in other states,” the letter says.
The proposal is one of 10 being considered during revisions to the wolf plan, a process that occurs every five years. The proposals will go before the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission during a meeting on April 21 in Klamath Falls.
Oregon lawmakers who signed the letter
Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland)
Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland)
Sen. Sara Acres Gelser (D-Corvallis/Albany/Philomath)
Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin)
Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene)
Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro)
Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland)
Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale)
Rep. Ken Helm (D-Beaverton)
Rep. John Lively (D-Springfield)
Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland)
Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland)
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland)
Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego)
Rep. Sheri Malstrom (D-Beaverton)
Rep. Carla C. Piluso (D-Gresham)
Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley)
Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland)
Included separate letter to commission: Rep. David Gomberg (D-Central Coast)