State panel OKs 'last resort' wolf killing rule

July 12, 2013 04:25 pm

State wildlife commission adopts new rules for lethal take of Oregon wolves 


The Oregon Wildlife Commission voted unanimously Friday to adopt new rules allowing the state to kill wolves involved with chronic livestock depredation.


The adoption was part of a process agreed upon after a settlement was reached between the state and environmental groups who sued fish and wildlife for using lethal control — claiming ranchers were not using ample nonlethal techniques to quell wolf/livestock interaction.

This spring, the Legislature passed a bill that would allow the state to kill wolves involved in four confirmed depredations in a six-month period. For a kill to qualify, it must be confirmed by a state biologist and the rancher must have demonstrated nonlethal measures were taken — if it occurred in an area of known wolf activity.

“The new rule has specific criteria when they qualify and count toward lethal control,” said Ron Anglin, wildlife division administrator for the state. “Non-lethal measures are a requisite to qualify a depredation in some circumstances. We also have some measures in place if we end up in a worst-case scenario. The department can deal with wolves on a case-by-case basis.”

The first livestock kill by wolves in an area not designated as known wolf territory will count toward lethal take even when nonlethal measures have not been used.

Russ Morgan, state wolf biologist, said the state would be able to adjust almost immediately if a confirmed wolf depredation occurred outside of known wolf territory.

“Once a depredation is confirmed, there would be no advantage to not designating an area of depredating wolves,” he said.

The department has maintained a Web page on gray wolves for many years, which includes information on newly collared wolves as well as summaries of livestock depredation investigations and documentation of new breeding pairs. To answer requests for full public disclosure, the state will be working more closely with livestock producers and other interested stakeholders to improve the Web-based communication, Anglin said.

“When we decided to go down this route, we put on our website a general definition of known wolf activity and we will do the same for depredating wolves,” Morgan said.

Anglin said once wolves are known to be established and there is known wolf activity in an area, the state will designate it and begin to work with landowners to educate them on non-lethal measures to minimize conflict.

“Requisites before any lethal action might be authorized, including the decision making process by the department or by director, would all be listed on the website,” Anglin said.

Another change, Anglin said, is that under the old rules there was no hard and fast end date for killing problem wolves. Now the department has a 45-day time restriction for lethal take, which is consistent with other western states.

The final item on the checklist is for Gov. John Kitzhaber to sign the bill into law.

Brett Brownscombe, the governor’s natural resource policy adviser, said the governor plans to sign the bill this month. 

“He was waiting for action by the commission and he’s very happy about this,” Brownscombe said.

Three conservation groups — Oregon Wild, Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands — sued the state in October 2011 for attempting to kill members of the Imnaha Pack in Wallowa County involved in dozens of livestock kills. The group filed an injunction, preventing the state from using lethal control on wolves. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association filed as intervenors and remained active throughout the year and a half suit.

The Center for Biological Diversity dropped out of the settlement talks shortly before a settlement was reached earlier this year.

The plan will open up for review and revision at the end of July 2015, according to Roy Elicker, head of the state fish and wildlife.

“That’s when we would be able to make changes,” he said.

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