Sanctioned Oregon killings on hold pending appeals court review of state wildlife laws
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — As a species, we humans like to think we’ve progressed in the last 100 years or so, but some things haven’t changed all that much, including an irrational fear and hatred of wild predators like wolves that still rears its ugly head.
That was proven once again last month, when at the behest of the ranching industry, wildlife officers in Oregon set out to decimate a wolf pack in the eastern part of the state.
The wolves targeted for killing included the alpha male and a yearling wolf of the Imnaha pack, the state’s first pack in nearly 65 years and one of only four statewide. The pack is the first to raise pups in Oregon since the animals began their fragile recovery in the state more than a decade ago.
Had two more wolves been killed as planned this fall, the Imnaha pack would have been reduced to the alpha female and her young pup, which probably would not have survived the winter alone.
At least for now, more wolf killings in Oregon are on hold pending a review of state wildlife laws by the Oregon Court of Appeals. Three conservation groups, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild, petitioned for review of the wolf-killing rule.
“This is a huge victory for the vast majority of Oregonians who believe that wolves and people can peacefully coexist in this state,” said Josh Laughlin, campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Increased human tolerance of gray wolves will be a defining factor in the recovery of the species in Oregon.”
The latest legal challenge argued that the purposeful killing of a critically endangered species and putting the species’ recovery at risk. The groups also argued that the state’s wolf-management plan is inconsistent with the Oregon Endangered Species Act, which specifically prohibits such action.
The Oregon Court of Appeals has not yet set a date for ruling on the legality of killing endangered wolves. Today’s announcement, however, is an indication that the conservation groups’ legal stance has merit. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has opposed wolf-management plan since its inception. The group intervened in the case and is defending the state’s ability to kill endangered wolves.
The action follows recent efforts by the industry group to weaken the wolf plan and other wildlife protections through the legislature and with the state wildlife commission.
“Killing wolves is a senseless and brutal act that does little to nothing to save livestock,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are much better nonlethal options, including fencing, guard dogs and removing the carcasses that attract wolves in the first place. Shooting down these animals is wrong, and it doesn’t solve the problem.”
Oregon is home to just 23 wolves and more than 1.3 million cattle. Last year, more than 55,000 cows were lost to causes from weather, disease and (human) thieves. In the rare instances (fewer than 20 this year) where livestock are lost to wolves, ranchers are reimbursed at fair market value by Oregon taxpayers. Some have questioned whether the state’s compensation and killing programs provide a perverse incentive for anti-wolf livestock operators not to take effective measures to protect their livestock.
“It’s outrageous for the livestock industry to demand a dead wolf and a check from taxpayers every time a cow goes missing,” said Rob Klavins, wildlife advocate with Oregon Wild. “Oregonians value native wildlife, and it was disappointing to see the state wasting taxpayer money defending killing an endangered species before a judge even told them whether or not it was legal.”