Killing demonstrates need for continued protections and public education

ASHLAND, Ore. -- On Friday, July 13, 2007 a mature female wolf was found dead and partially decomposed on private land near Elgin, OR. Federal wildlife forensics examiners notified agency staff at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) that the wolf had originated from the Idaho wild wolf population and died from wounds inflicted by a high-powered rifle. The announcement from ODFW was noted as bittersweet by conservation organizations, which heralded the first confirmation in seven years of a wild wolf in the state, and simultaneously mourned her demise. "Having a wolf confirmed in Oregon after all these years is such a positive event, yet hard to celebrate since the only reason we learned of her presence is her death," noted Amaroq Weiss, Director of Western Species Conservation for Defenders of Wildlife, and a member of the state-appointed advisory committee that helped ODFW develop the wolf conservation and management plan that was adopted in 2005. "Ironically, she was killed at the very moment federal officials are considering removing federal protections for wolves in the west, including the part of Oregon where this wolf was shot. The news of this illegal killing demonstrates that strong federal protections should not yet be removed in our region."

Since 1999, at least three other wolves have made their way from Idaho into OR. The first was captured and returned to Idaho, the second was struck and killed by a car, and the third illegally killed in a still unsolved shooting. State and federal officials have received hundreds of unconfirmed reports of wolf sightings since 1998, but none have been confirmed since 2000. Experts and local communities believed that it was only a matter of time before the next confirmed wolf appearance occurred because of an overwhelming body of evidence, including tracks, droppings and, just last year, video evidence of a fourth wolf in the Zumwalt Prairie area.

"Oregonians overwhelmingly support the return of wolves, even if our track record with the first several wolves confirmed here seems pretty abysmal," said Hells Canyon Preservation Council's Executive Director Greg Dyson, whose organization was also a representative on the state wolf planning committee. "The state wolf plan intended that public education would be a large part of wolf management in Oregon, and it's clear from this sad event that there needs to be more public educational outreach. This effort would teach people to identify a wolf when they see it and to learn that it is possible to live with wolves rather than resort to senseless killing out of fear or ignorance. Continued federal protections and public education are key to the survival of imperiled species like wolves."