The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is dealing with an increasing poaching problem in the state. The latest offense is the tragic killing of OR-88, the breeding female gray wolf of the Lookout Mountain Pack. This is the fifth illegal killing of this species in Oregon this year. The Oregon Wildlife Coalition is offering an $11,500 reward for information that would lead to an arrest in the case of OR-88’s killing.
A report from Oregon Public Broadcasting includes a photo of the slain wolf. OR-88 lays on her side in the photo with a gaping, bloody wound on her shoulder. This is a sad, upward trend in the state right now. More and more animals are being illegally killed as the months wear on.
“It’s tragic enough when a wolf gets killed,” said the senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity Amaroq Weiss. “And it’s even more tragic when a wolf has been illegally killed.”
Oregon removed Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in 2015. Since then, at least 21 wolves have been illegally killed in the state. Former President Trump went even further during his tenure, pulling the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List entirely. Last year, 8 wolves were illegally killed, which is more than the state had seen in a decade. OPB reports that protections were restored for the species earlier this year, but that hasn’t fully stopped the poachers.
“[Wolves] are really valuable to wild nature. They’re really valuable as part of our cultural and natural heritage,” said Weiss. “No matter what you think of wolves, poaching is wrong.”
Oregon Has Tragic Wolf Poaching Problem, But Populations Remain Strong
Stripping protections from gray wolves definitely led to more poaching. But, apparently, the wolf populations are staying strong for the moment.
Michelle Dennehy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson, told OPB that despite the upward trend in poaching, the population is relatively stable. In 2021, the department counted a minimum of 175 wolves.
“As terrible as poaching is, and we’re definitely very concerned about it here at ODFW, we’re not expecting to see a decline in the population at this point,” said Dennehy. According to the department, if human-wolf interactions–poaching, hunting, and car collisions–stay below 20%, then the population will continue to grow and thrive.
ODFW is still working with the Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon State Police to work toward combatting poaching in the state. This includes the Oregon Department of Justice hiring a specific prosecutor to investigate and prosecute poachers. Assistant Attorney General Jay Hall is now in charge of prosecuting poachers in Oregon. Additionally, Oregon’s Stop Poaching Campaign received funding in 2019 to work with local communities to put an end to poaching.