SALEM — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking to allow ranchers to kill wolves when they catch a wolf in the act of killing livestock.
Senate Bill 197, which has been assigned the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, would give the state authority to allow what is known as permit-less take when the state’s wolf population reaches four breeding pair for three consecutive years.
“We’re basically two years away from that,” said Curt Melcher, deputy director of the department. “We had five or six confirmed breeding pair last year.”
To date, ranchers must be in possession of a kill permit before they can take a wolf caught killing livestock.
Kill permits are issued only after several nonlethal steps are taken to prevent depredation, and only after a rancher has suffered depredation.
The bill is the third and final piece of legislation needed to fully implement the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, Melcher said.
The first two pieces, one creating a compensation fund for ranchers who suffer livestock losses from wolf depredation, and one to change the status of the gray wolf from a protected to a game mammal, already have been adopted, Melcher said.
— Mitch Lies