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Court Extends Ban on Killing Oregon’s Endangered Wolves

State’s First Wolf Pack in 65 Years Out of Crosshairs — for Now

Conservationists and wildlife appreciators celebrate a victory for Oregon's endangered wolves, and the state's first pack in over 65 years.

Court Extends Ban on Killing Oregon’s Endangered Wolves

A temporary stay order for two members of the 4-member Imnaha pack shown here was extended. The pack was the first to successfully raise pups in Oregon since the species was driven to extinction in the state in 1947. Photo courtesy of ODFW.

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Salem, ORE Nov 15, 2011

SALEM, Ore.— Kill orders will remain on hold for two endangered gray wolves in Oregon after a decision today by the Oregon Court of Appeals. The court appeals panel reaffirmed an earlier court order prohibiting the killing of two members of the Imnaha pack by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, pending the final outcome of the court’s review of the state’s wildlife laws. Three conservation groups, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild, had 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.”

Today’s ruling extends a temporary ban on killing put in place on Oct. 5. Department of Fish and Wildlife officials revealed last month they were trying to kill members of eastern Oregon’s Imnaha pack; in fact, unsuccessful shots were taken at the wolves the day before the ban was put into effect.

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. Earlier this spring, just hours after wolf management was handed back to the state, Oregon wildlife officials killed two wolves from the pack, which had been blamed for several livestock depredations. The kill order was issued at the request of the livestock industry. 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, who would likely have been unable to survive the winter alone.

The latest legal challenge argued that by allowing the purposeful killing of a critically endangered species and putting the species’ recovery at risk, 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, which has opposed the state’s compromise wolf-management plan since its inception, 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 confirmed 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.” 

The Oct. 5 order granting a temporary stay was issued by the court’s appellate commissioner. Today’s action was taken by a three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals.

The nonprofit groups are represented by attorney Dan Kruse in Eugene, Center for Biological Diversity Staff Attorney Tim Ream, and Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director Nick Cady.

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For more information also contact:
     Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
     Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
     Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343

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