Oregon Wolf Wars
Photo of gray wolf by Tracy Brooks
Wolves gaining toe-hold in Oregon.
Court-ordered stay on State wolf killing remains in place as of December 2012.
Oregon's Imnaha Wolf Pack Dodges State Bullets: Kill Orders Still on Hold
Due to intense pressure from ranchers in NE Oregon, state wildlife managers have been taking shots at the Imnaha wolf pack, Oregon's first and major pack. Within two weeks of wolves losing federal protection and falling under state management, which happened on April 15, 2011, ODFW killed 2 Imnaha pack wolves. This pack produced the now famous "OR7," the young male wolf who has captured the attention of the world and is being followed as he made his way from NE Oregon and into California. He was right about getting out of Oregon!
Read more about OR7's fascinating journey in the following articles:
- Wandering wolf tracked in same area as California's last wild wolf in 1924 - Sacramento Bee, Jan. 25, 2012
- OR-7's biological clock ticking as he moves to lower ground for winter - OregonLive, Dec. 6, 2012
- California Fish & Game website - current information on OR7's whereabouts
In September 2011 the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildife (ODFW) issued kill orders on the alpha male and another member of the Imnaha pack. Because of dispersal and government killing, the pack had diminished from 16 to only 5 remaining wolves by the end 2011 and the death of two more members would likely have spelled doom for the pack's survival. The Imnaha pack kill orders were challenged in court for violating Oregon's endangered species act, and the judge put a hold on kill orders until the lawsuit proceeds. Since then the pack has shown signs of recovery and produced a litter of pups over the summer of 2012.
As of December 2012, the hold is still in place. Ultimately the court will make a permanent determination which we hope will continue to favor wolf recovery in Oregon. Without the court's legal decision to temporarily halt the kill order, the pack would likely not have suvived.
Summer Wolf Wars Escalate in Eastern Oregon
Anti-wolf sentiment runs high in east Oregon, especially during the season of summer calving and the move to summer pastures. There are about as many kill permits issued to ranchers as there are wolves in the state.
The Imnaha pack was brought to the brink of extermination during the summer of 2011 by government agents killing wolves at the behest of ranchers. In spite of the extreme efforts to kill wolves, and thanks to the legal stay on further kill orders, Oregon wolves are gaining a foothold. As of December 2012, there are 6 breeding packs in Oregon, all of which have pups. Still, the gains made are tenuous at best, and we are bracing for extreme anti-wolf legislation to be introduced in January 2013, when the legislature reconvenes. Oregon has a full legislative session every other year. Please see our Imnaha extermination alert and the update on Oregon's last (2011) legislative session for a sense of the politics and relationships between ranchers, state and federal agents.
With the State now in charge of wolf management—thanks to Congress' removal of wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act in April 2011—and a generous source of funding available to Oregon wildlife managers, lethal control (killing) is rapidly taking priority over protection. The direction of wildlife management is largely driven by the tremendous political influence that agricultural and hunting interests have over Oregon wildlife managers through the legislature and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. The generous funding of predator control from federal, state, county and private coffers has provided wildlife managers with the ability to implement the lethal management strategy desired by special interests.
When will science and population demographics trump politics in determining how our wildlife is treated? Not until decision-makers hear the voices of conservationists, scientists, constituents on a much louder level, a level that competes with the shrill demands of ranchers and hunters.
We are committed to working with other organizations, the media and you, our members, to bring attention and focus on the factual information that supports science-based wildlife management. The Oregonian recently went to bat for wildlife by highlighting recent studies from OSU and elsewhere demonstrating the importance of predators, and by editorializing against predator-killing legislation.
We have our work cut out for us and must make serious headway before Oregon's fledgling wolf pack loses its tenuous toe-hold on existence. To keep updated on the 2013 state legislative session and get active for wolves and other predators, email us at email@example.com (please put "Action Alert Request" in the subject line).
At the end of Oregon's last full legislative session two bills adding funds to wolf management became law. We opposed the bills to no avail; they passed both houses unanimously. The livestock industry bellows loudly in Salem and is heard above the conservationists' voices. The bills were:
- HB3560, granting $100,000 of tax money to compensate ranchers for losses due to wolves, easily made it through both houses to the governor's desk. There was no stopping this bill, but at least some of the funds will go toward non-lethal husbandry improvements.
- HB3636 adds a check-off on hunters' licenses for hunters to voluntarily donate funds to predator control for the killing of several species including cougars, bears, coyotes, furbearers and wolves. Although Predator Defense opposed HB3636 early on in the session, the bill ran under the radar screen of most conservation organizations because it was not exclusively oriented to wolves. HB3636 has the potential to raise a lot of hunter dollars since approximately 50 thousand tags are sold yearly. Predator Defense joined other groups in asking the governor to veto HB3636, but it was too little, too late. Read our letter to Oregon officials
The legislative budget process awarded Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) a whopping $740,000 for killing of coyotes, birds, feral swine, rodents, and other species. On top of that, ODFW directed another $100,000 toward specific killing of cougars, bears and wolves.
Basic addition shows a total of $840,000—the vast majority of that being tax dollars—going to kill wildlife during the 2011–13 biennium. This amount is just a fraction of the total spent on wildlife killing in our state.
Thank you to those of you who contacted legislators in response to alerts on these bills. If you would like to be on our alert list, please send an email to us at
firstname.lastname@example.org (please put "Action Alert Request" in the subject line).
Learn More about the Challenges Facing Wolves
Wolves were taken off the federal Endangered Species List on April 15, 2011, when President Obama signed the federal budget into law. This means that Oregon wolves are no longer federally protected and are now strictly under state management.
Learn more about the challenges facing America's wolves and our work to protect them in Wolves at Risk.