Oregon Wild released the following statement following news that OR-22, a collared gray wolf dispersed from the Umatilla River pack, had been shot and killed in Eastern Oregon. An unnamed individual alleged to have mistakenly killed the wolf while hunting coyotes.
All hunters have an ethical and moral responsibility to be absolutely certain of their targets before they pull the trigger. While we can applaud this man for turning himself in for killing an endangered species, we also hope state and local law enforcement will fairly enforce the law. It is disturbing to hear the Oregon State Police applaud this individual as a “true sportsman.” A responsible hunter knows the law and knows his target with certainty. Whether by mistake or not, this hunter broke the law.
A fully grown gray wolf like OR-22 weighs 80-100 pounds, stands 2.5 feet tall and measures up to 6 feet long, while a grown coyote can weigh up to 50 pounds and can stand 1.5 feet tall. OR-22 was also wearing a large radio tracking collar and had bright colored ear tags. Poaching of both game animals and endangered species is rampant in Oregon. While there are regular investigations and prosecutions of deer and elk poachers, of the five known wolf poaching incidents in Oregon, and not counting the suspended investigation into the suspicious deaths of the Sled Springs pair, no charges have ever been filed.
This also has to be viewed in context. All across the country, there has been a disturbing trend of hunters shooting endangered wildlife then claiming it was a mistake. Either hunter education requirements are falling short, or there is a perception that shooting without knowing your target doesn't matter because law enforcement won't prosecute.
The Salt Lake Tribune produced this graphic illustrating the differences between gray wolves and coyotes. We hope that true sportsmen will circulate this information and help educate others to recognize the difference and obey the law.