|PORTLAND, Ore.— Conservation organizations are bolstering a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services reward for information on the illegal killing of OR-25, a federally protected gray wolf in southwestern Oregon. The Service has offered a $5,000 reward, and six conservation organizations have contributed an additional $11,750.
In the past two weeks alone, state and federal officials have announced the poaching deaths of wolves OR-25 and OR-33 near Fort Klamath and Klamath Falls, where wolves still have federal protection. In addition to these two kills, since state endangered species act protections were removed from Oregon wolves across the state in late 2015, at least an additional seven wolves have been poached or died under mysterious circumstances in Oregon.
At the time of state delisting, conservation groups warned the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission that scientific research shows removing protection from wolves, as well as increased wolf-killing by agencies or the public, decreases social tolerance for wolves and increases incidences of poaching.
“Wolves in Oregon are being gunned down maliciously after wildlife officials prematurely removed state-level protections for these misunderstood animals,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Whatever you think of wolves, poaching is wrong and cowardly. We hope someone steps forward with information leading to the killer’s prosecution.”
“Wolf poaching, surreptitious or flagrant, is a growing phenomenon in Oregon,” said Wally Sykes, cofounder of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems. “I hope the rewards now on offer for information identifying these people will bring results. Oregonians overwhelmingly value and respect wolves, but these criminals will kill them out of ignorance and malice.”
“How many dead wolves will it take for Oregon to admit it has a poaching problem?” said Quinn Read, Northwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “The tragic killing of OR-25 makes at least nine wolves who have been poached or died under mysterious circumstances in the last two years. We need help to find the criminals responsible and make sure our state’s poaching laws are fully enforced.”
“The illegal killing of this federally protected Oregon gray wolf is a cowardly act of cruelty and waste, and we are grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for giving the case the serious attention it deserves,” said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director at the Humane Society of the United States. “We are proud to contribute to the effort to bring the perpetrator to justice.”
“Here we go again,” said Danielle Moser, wildlife coordinator for Oregon Wild. “In the last two years, we have seen a surge in poaching of wolves. This coincides with Governor Brown and her staff working to successfully strip protections from this endangered species. It’s high time the governor did something to rein in ODFW and encourage OSP to aggressively pursue these investigations.”
“Despite massive public objection, the state has made countless efforts to accommodate commercial livestock interests by delisting wolves and shooting wolves all in the name of building ‘social tolerance’ in rural Oregon,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Instead of building tolerance for wolves in these communities, it appears these efforts have only given social license to killing wolves in violation of the law.”
Anyone with information about this case should call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (503) 682-6131 or Oregon State Police Tip Line at (800) 452-7888. Callers may remain anonymous.
OR-25 was found killed near Fort Klamath in the Sun Pass State Forest on Oct. 29. Details about this illegal killing, though not the precise cause of death, were released Nov. 6.
OR-25 was a 4.5-year-old male gray wolf who was collared in May 2014 and separated from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon in March 2015. Like famous wolf OR-7, also of the Imnaha pack, OR-25 made his way across Oregon into California, where he spent several weeks in December 2015 and January 2016 roaming in Modoc County, presumably in search of a mate. He returned to Oregon and had been living in the Klamath County area since that time.
Killing a gray wolf in the western two-thirds of Oregon is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. It is also a violation of Oregon state game laws and is subject to both criminal and civil penalties. The investigation of this crime is being conducted by the Oregon State Police and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The announcement of the poaching death of OR-25 arrives on the heels of the killing of another Oregon wolf last week by an elk hunter in the eastern part of the state, in Union County. The hunter has claimed the wolf was coming directly at him and that he killed the animal in self-defense, despite clear evidence the wolf was shot in the side on the midsection of its torso. Though the hunter’s story conflicts with the physical evidence, state and county officials are declining to press charges.