Officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shot and killed two wolf pups Sunday, days after approving a permit for ranchers to kill up to four wolves in Baker County.
The agency confirmed that officials in a helicopter shot and killed two 3½ month-old pups from the Lookout Mountain pack.
Just one day earlier, the state agency said it had approved a rancher’s permit to kill up to four uncollared wolves in Baker County, where officials said the Lookout Mountain pack had attacked four cows over the last two weeks of July.
Agency spokesperson Michelle Dennehy said Monday the killing of the pups was “reducing the pack’s food needs and disrupting the pack’s behavior so they don’t associate livestock with an easy meal.”
She said while the pups are not a threat to livestock, they could be as they grow and learn to hunt.
“Killing pups is not something we want to be doing,” Dennehy said. “But in this case, despite non-lethal measures, chronic depredation continues which we have a responsibility to address.”
The killing of the two pups has caused serious concern among advocacy and conservation groups.
Steve Pedery, the conservation director for Oregon Wild, said conservation organizations have been concerned without the right training in managing endangered species, handing over supervision of wolf populations to the state agency could have some tragic outcomes.
“It’s hard to see any justification other than ODFW wanted to kill some wolves, and all they could find was some 3-month-old puppies,” Pedery said.
The adult wolves in the Lookout Mountain pack – a breeding male and female – have radio collars for state tracking, and were not eligible to be killed by livestock producers. The breeding pair had two pups last year, Dennehy said, and the state documented another seven pups in May.
Dennehy said the remaining pups would still have two experienced hunters to feed them.
Dennehy said in an email to the Oregonian/OregonLive that both ODFW and the rancher tried to find uncollared wolves Friday, but only saw the breeding adults, which are collared. She said ODFW does not have plans to pursue other wolves, but the rancher has the permit until Aug. 21.
Dennehy said they also saw at least five pups, but did not see the yearling wolves they were looking for.
As of April, Oregon had 173 wolves in 22 identified packs.
Oregon rules allow ranchers to kill wolves if they repeatedly attack and present a significant risk to livestock, and when non-lethal methods such as electric fences or hazing don’t stop the attacks. Kill permits allow livestock producers or ranchers to shoot a wolf from the ground, and Fish and Wildlife staff are authorized to shoot wolves from the air.
Sristi Kamal, a representative for the Northwest branch of Defenders of Wildlife, said the group was “enraged” by the state’s actions and called on the state agency to facilitate coexistence between livestock producers and wolves.
“The use of lethal measures is never a long-term solution to depredations and killing pups is simply unacceptable,” Kamal said in a written statement. “Defenders will continue to work with livestock producers to help implement proactive non-lethal practices and strategic grazing practices.”
Pedery disputed the agency’s assertion that killing the pups would significantly reduce the caloric needs for the pack, noting that 3-month wolf pups weigh 20 to 30 pounds.
“ODFW has just joined the ranks of Idaho, Wyoming and Wisconsin in demonstrating why they are unfit to manage endangered wildlife in an ethical manner,” Pedery wrote in an email to the Oregonian/OregonLive.
“If Governor Brown refuses to reign in her agency, it is clear that President Biden and (U.S. Secretary of the Interior) Deb Haaland need to step in and reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections.”
Gray wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species list in January, allowing Fish and Wildlife to take over the management of their population.
But just last week, a coalition of 70 groups filed a formal petition to re-list the gray wolf as an endangered species in the western United States.
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