GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Rewards totaling $10,000 were offered today for information in the killing of a federally protected wolf in northeastern Oregon.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service announced it is offering $2,500. A coalition of conservation groups put up $7,500.
The 2-year-old male wolf, from the Wenaha pack, had been captured and fitted with a radio tracking collar in August.
It was found dead Sept. 30 on the Umatilla National Forest, Fish and Wildlife said.
There is still no official cause of death. The wolf is being sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland for a necropsy, said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Joan Jewett.
The reward indicates the high priority Fish and Wildlife has put on finding whoever is responsible, she added.
Killing an animal protected under the Endangered Species Act carries a fine up to $100,000 and a year in jail. Killing a wolf is also prohibited by Oregon state game laws.
Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Oregon Wild, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, and Northeast Oregon Ecosystems put together the reward from conservation groups.
“We are offering the reward because of the hostility to wolves in the region and to counteract the hostility by honing in on the fact that this is an illegal act that occurred,” said Greg Dyson, executive director of the Hells Canyon group. “There’s room for both wolves and ranching, but there have got to be above-the-board efforts to make it work. We’ve been concerned by some of the public statements leaders from other groups have made that are strongly anti-wolf. We’re concerned that they have been incendiary and may have encouraged someone to take the law into their own hands.”
Wiped out in Oregon by bounty hunters more than 60 years ago, wolves first returned to the state in 1998 from Idaho, where they were introduced in a federal effort to get them off the endangered species list. Two packs are producing pups and estimated to total about 20 wolves. The state wolf management plan calls for allowing wolves to spread throughout Oregon.
Two other wolves have been illegally shot since they starting moving into the state. Two from the Imnaha pack were killed by government hunters for attacking livestock.