State Guns Down Wolves As Predation Declines
Despite such modest growth and a nearly 30 percent reduction in wolf-livestock conflicts, the ODFW issued its first wolf kill order of the year two days ago. So far, wildlife managers have killed one member of the Pine Creek pack and have authorized the killing of any second additional wolf, including the pack’s pregnant female.
The estimated increase to 124 wolves in 2017 from 112 in 2016 represents an increase of 11 percent. Until two years ago, the state’s wolf population gains were around 30 percent annually. In 2016, the population increased by only two wolves, a meager 1.81 percent gain from the prior year.
“With two years in a row of such little population growth, the last thing Oregon’s wolves need right now is to have the agency gunning them down,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “While we’re glad there were some gains, the population is still small and mostly restricted to one corner of the state.”
Today’s report confirmed 11 breeding pairs compared with last year’s eight breeding pairs, a 38 percent increase. However, there were 11 breeding pairs in 2015, so 2017’s increase simply brings the breeding pairs numbers back to where they were two years ago.
Pack numbers increased from 11 packs in 2016 to 12 packs in 2017. But 11 of the 12 packs are in northeastern Oregon, with only one pack so far residing in the southwestern part of the state despite ample suitable wolf habitat there.
In addition, the report notes 13 known wolf mortalities in 2017. Twelve were human-caused, including five wolves killed by the agency, one killed by a ranch-hand, one killed by an M-44 cyanide device and four wolves that were poached.
In 2015 the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission removed wolves from the state endangered species list – even though Oregon’s wolves are still absent from nearly 90 percent of the state’s suitable habitat. A lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands challenging the state-delisting is pending.
Oregon’s wolf conservation and management plan is supposed to be undergoing a review and update, a process that was to have taken place in 2015 but was delayed by the state. Last spring the state wildlife department finally issued proposed revisions to the state wolf plan but these were met with significant objections from stakeholders. As a result, no plan updates have yet been made.
Though the Oregon wolf population is slowly increasing, wolf-livestock conflicts are not. Indeed, today’s report indicates that wolf-caused predations on livestock decreased nearly 30 percent in 2017, with confirmed losses in 2016 of 24, but only 17 losses in 2017. Despite this significant decline in losses, the agency is still moving quickly to kill wolves in instances of wolf-livestock conflicts.
On Wednesday, the state wildlife agency killed a yearling female wolf from the newly identified Pine Creek wolf pack in Baker County, after authorizing staff and a livestock producer to kill up to two wolves from the pack. This includes killing the pack’s pregnant breeding female who is due to give birth soon. The kill operation is in response to livestock predations by pack members on privately-leased grazing lands.
“It’s outrageous that the state would kill members of a new wolf pack after its initial brush with livestock, and especially awful that the pack’s mother wolf won’t be spared,” Weiss added. “Something is very wrong with Oregon’s wolf management policies to include killing a pack’s pregnant mother wolf.”
The Department of Fish and Wildlife will present its annual wolf report and wolf plan update proposals at the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s April 20 meeting in Astoria.