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OR: Oregon elk hunter shoots a wolf he said charged at him

The hunter first thought he’d shot a coyote, but double-checked and notified Oregon State Police and ODFW.

Eric Mortenson
Capital Press

An Oregon elk hunter shot and killed a wolf he said was charging him, Oregon State Police and ODFW said.

The hunter, a 38-year-old man from Clackamas, Ore., who was not named in a news release, will not be charged in the case. The Union County district attorney’s office reviewed evidence and said the man acted in self-defense.

ODFW’s acting wolf program coordinator, Robyn Brown, said it was the first known incident of a wolf being shot in self-defense. Wolves are protected under state and federal law and killing them is a crime except in defense of human life and in certain cases where livestock are being attacked.

The incident happened Oct. 27 about 11:30 .am. in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit in Northeast Oregon, where most of Oregon’s wolves live. The man told state police and ODFW he was hunting elk alone and repeatedly saw three animals he thought were coyotes moving around him. One of them eventually ran directly at him while another appeared to circle to the side.

The hunter said he yelled at the charging animal, then fired a single shot, killing it. The other two disappeared. State police later estimated the wolf was 27 yards away when the man fired. Police spokesman Capt. Bill Fugate said a shell casing from the man’s 30.06 rifle was found 27 yards from the wolf carcass.

The man returned to his hunting camp and told his companions what had happened. Uncertain whether he’d killed a coyote as he first thought, the hunters returned to the site and concluded it was a wolf. The hunter who fired the shot notified state police and ODFW, according to a news release. A wildlife trooper and an ODFW biologist responded to the hunting camp, went to the scene and took custody of the carcass for examination.

Fugate, the state police spokesman, said the finding of self-defense was based on the man’s statement, the shell casing location and the fact that the man “self-reported” the incident, which Fugate described as “compelling.”

ODFW said the dead wolf was an 83-pound female associated with a male, OR-30, that wears a tracking collar. Initial examination indicated it was not a breeding female, but the wolf’s DNA will be analyzed at the University of Idaho to make sure, according to ODFW.

Brown, the ODFW wolf coordinator, said dangerous encounters between people and wolves, cougars, bears and coyotes are rare. The animals usually avoid humans and will leave an area when they see, hear or smell one, she said in a prepared statement.

She said people who see a wolf should talk or yell to warn it off. Those carrying a firearm could fire a warning shot into the ground, she said.