SALEM, Ore – On Oct 5, the Oregon Court of Appeals granted a request by conservation groups to temporarily halt Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) plans to shoot two wolves from the Imnaha pack that were involved in chronic livestock predation.
Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild argued that efforts by the ODFW to remove the pack’s alpha male and a younger wolf would leave only a female wolf and one pup born this year to fend for themselves this winter and it would decimate the Imnaha pack and hinder the species’ reintroduction into Oregon.
The conservationists also claim the state has no authority under the Oregon Endangered Species Act to kill wolves.
But lawyers for the Oregon Department of Justice argue the conservationists’ claims are not likely to stand up in court, furthermore the stay order on killing the two wolves should be lifted.
The Oregon Wolf Management Plan allows for killing wolves in cases of “chronic depredation,” according to a brief filed by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, state Solicitor General Anna M. Joyce and Senior Assistant Attorney General Inge D. Wells.
The state argues that fifteen cases of cattle deaths since May 2010 illustrate that non-lethal methods such as range riders, flagging fences and radio-activated guard devices have been unsuccessful. Killing the wolves is a necessary last resort to “foster human tolerance of wolves, thus ensuring their survival in Oregon,” the brief states.
The wildlife department reported another case of a wolf attack on livestock on Oct. 27, when a cow was seriously injured and later euthanized, according to ODFW’s spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.
The state argues that killing two wolves “will not cause irreparable harm to the gray wolf population in Oregon, and, in fact, will aid in the recovery of the species…,” according to the brief. Dennehy also said another wolf of the Walla Walla pack, the second in a week, a male pup, was collared Wednesday.
The state counts 14 wolves in Oregon and under the management plan is required to treat them as endangered until at least four breeding pairs are established in Eastern Oregon for three consecutive years.
“While the population continues to be endangered, petitioners have not demonstrated that the loss of two wolves from the Imnaha pack will have a detrimental effect on the species as a whole,” the state argues.
The state argues that the wildlife agency doesn’t exceed its authority under the state Endangered Species Act by killing problem wolves. As long as removing wolves linked to livestock losses is “in furtherance of the conservation goals of the Endangered Species Act and is necessary for the recovery of the species of the whole,” the department is on solid legal ground, the brief states.
The state argues the conservationists’ lawsuit would not likely prevail on its merits and should be dismissed. Arguments have yet to be scheduled.