If you’re an eastern Oregon Outsider, local officials need your help. In total, 8 wolves have been poisoned in the area. The heinous act has completely wiped out the state’s Catherine Pack, with 3 other casualties lining up, as well.
According to Oregon State Police (via Associated Press), the killing of the Catherine Pack took place in Union County.
“To my knowledge this is the first wolf pack to be killed by poison in Oregon,” offers Capt. Stephanie Bigman of Salem’s OSP. Unfortunately, investigation up to this point has provided no leads. “There are also no suspects,” Bigman continues. “All investigative leads have been exhausted and that is why we are reaching out to the public for assistance.”
Sristi Kamal of Defenders of Wildlife in Portland echoes the sentiments of conservationists nationwide with her reaction Thursday. “This is horrific,” Kamal offers. “This is quite clearly an intentional and repeat offense.”
Humans and wolves have a contentious relationship in North America dating back eons. Many feel these apex predators no longer have a place amongst a “civilized world,” but environmental sciences have proven time and again that removing wolves from their ecosystems holds dire consequences.
To make matters worse, Oregon only has around 170 wolves that live and reproduce in state borders. This, Kamal says, makes the loss of 8 “so egregious.”
Hunting Wolves is One Thing. Poisoning Them Maliciously is Another.
When wolves disappear from their ecosystems, prey like deer run rampant. Left uncheck by predators like wolves and bears, cervids wreak havoc on vegetation both wild and agricultural. Most prevalent, however, is the spread of disease deer are capable of when left unchecked by natural selection.
This is a modern issue, too. Wolves were once prevalent across the continental U.S. But by the 1930s-40s, they were nearly extinct due to government-sanctioned poisoning, trapping, and over-hunting.
In Oregon’s poisoning case, The Fish and Wildlife Division of the Oregon State Police was alerted February 9. The alarm sounded after a collared member of the Catherine Pack was noted as “possibly deceased.”
Responding troopers would find 5 deceased wolves: 2 females and 3 males. Their bodies were southeast of Mount Harris, AP cites, within Union County, Oregon. Each carcass would go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensics lab in Ashland to determine cause of death. The verdict? Poisoning.
March would then yield another dead wolf. She was found in the same location, alongside a skunk and magpie. This is characteristic of open-feeding poisoning. In the end, the entire Catherine Pack would perish. A member of Oregon’s Keating Pack would also perish. Both April and July would reveal more dead wolves, as well.
In the end, “The poisoning of the Catherine wolf pack is tragic and disgusting” says Sophia Ressler, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “No wolf should have to suffer such a fate. Awful events like this show how much more work [needs to be done] for us to coexist with these vitally important animals.”