FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Northeast Oregon Residents, Conservationists Offer $7,500 Reward for Info on Wolf Poacher
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service looking for tips to aid investigation into illegal killing
In response to the poaching of an endangered Oregon Wolf, local citizens and conservationists join together to offer a reward for information leading the criminal's arrest.
This adult male wolf of the Imnha Pack was found killed by a poacher just a month after being fitted with a radio collar by wildlife biologists. Photo Courtesy of ODFW.
Enterprise, Ore—A group of local northeast Oregon residents along with state and national wildlife conservation organizations are offering a reward of up to $7,500 for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally killing an endangered gray wolf in the Umatilla National Forest. The fund is in addition to $2,500 offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
On September 30, a young adult male member of the Wenaha Wolf Pack was found dead by wildlife agents. The animal had been fitted in early August with a radio tracking collar by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) officials to help biologists track the movement of the pack – one of only two known wolf packs in Oregon. This is the third known wolf poaching incident in the state since the species began returning to Oregon after being exterminated over 60 years ago. Though it has been over a decade since the first wolves began to return to the state, the confirmed population stands at a mere 20 wolves. The loss of any wolves is a serious blow to their recovery.
Wally Sykes of Joseph, Oregon is a founder of the community group Northeast Oregon Ecosystems helped raise a portion of the money from neighbors, friends, and community members who were appalled to learn of the killing.
“It’s infuriating when any animal is senselessly and illegally killed, but the facts in this case are especially egregious,” said Sykes. “The biologists had just fitted this endangered wolf with a hard-to-miss collar and sent out photos printed in newspapers and websites across the state. Whoever shot this wolf knew what they were doing and just didn’t care that it was illegal.”
The gray wolf is listed as endangered in Oregon and protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and the person or persons responsible face serious consequences. The crime could be punishable by up to a $100,000 fine and one-year prison sentence.
Given the recent history of wolf poaching in northeast Oregon and extreme rhetoric from anti-wildlife organizations, wolf advocates had feared the prospect of more wolf killings. As recently as September 23, the Wallowa County Chieftain reported a spokesperson for the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, was asked his opinion of people who want to eradicate the wolf from the ranchlands of northeastern Oregon. He responded: “I'd like to pat them on the back and buy them a cup of coffee.”
With wolves slowly recovering in Oregon, livestock owners have been concerned about potential impacts to their industry. While some ranchers have embraced non-lethal methods of avoiding conflict with wolves (like range riders, fladry, and radio activated noise boxes to deter wolves from interacting with livestock) others have not.
“I think it’s incredibly important for people on all sides of the wolf issue to look for positive solutions and steer clear of inflammatory and misleading rhetoric,” added Sykes. “In the 20th century, we killed every wolf in our state. This time we need to focus our efforts on how to learn to live with wolves.”
Oregon’s wolves face threats beyond poaching. In 2009, two wolves were killed by federal agents due to conflict with livestock. In 2010, Oregon State authorities issued controversial kill permits for two more wolves in response to the loss of 6 calves. That controversial action led conservationists to challenge the kill permits in court as violating state and federal law. The hunt was swiftly suspended.
The Wenaha Pack has stayed up in the high country and has not been implicated any conflict with ranchers or livestock. The pack has three pups and the silver male reported to be dead was described as in “good condition” when collared in August. This poaching demonstrates that the last thing wildlife managers and Oregon lawmakers need to do is make it easier to kill wolves as some organizations have lobbied for in recent months.
A high resolution photo of the dead wolf can be found here.
Organizations contributing to the reward fund include: Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Hells Canyon Preservation Council Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, and Oregon Wild
Anyone with information about this wolf poaching should contact Special Agent Cindi Bockstadter at 503.682.6131