PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has approved killing up to four uncollared wolves in eastern Oregon’s Baker County, where officials say the Lookout Mountain wolf pack attacked four cows in 14 days.
The state has confirmed that wolves killed or hurt the cows from July 14 to July 26, and it approved a kill permit for the affected livestock producer, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
State rules allow for the lethal removal of wolves when repeated attacks present a significant risk to livestock and when nonlethal methods such as electric fencing or hazing haven’t stopped the attacks.
A kill permit authorizes the livestock producer or their agents to shoot a wolf from the ground. Fish and Wildlife staff may also help and may shoot from the air. Agency spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said she doesn’t know yet if the state will be assisting with this permit.
She said lethal removal has been approved about a half-dozen times since 2009 when the wolves were first re-established in Oregon. The last time the state-authorized a kill permit was in June 2018, after the Pine Creek wolf pack killed two calves and injured four others in Baker County.
The area authorized for lethal removal is northeast of Durkee and includes private and public land where the affected livestock producer has a grazing permit.
Dennehy said her agency found the livestock producer whose cows were attacked has been using non-lethal measures for years.
Both adult wolves in the Lookout Mountain pack have radio collars for state tracking, and neither is eligible for lethal removal. The breeding pair had two pups last year, Dennehy said, and the state documented another seven pups in May.
As of April, the state had 173 wolves in 22 identified packs.
Conservation groups are critical of state policies allowing the killing of wolves and argue gray wolves still need protection as the species is still recovering. Earlier this year, five wolves were found dead in eastern Oregon, and Fish and Wildlife reported nine wolf fatalities statewide last year, including three illegally poached.
Gray wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species List in January, allowing Fish and Wildlife to take over the management of their population.
On Thursday, a coalition of 70 groups filed a formal petition to re-list the gray wolf as an endangered species throughout the West.
Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, one of the groups that filed the petition, said his group is especially concerned about state-level rules in Idaho and Montana that call for killing a large portion of existing wolf populations.
“Wolves remain completely absent from suitable habitats or perilously close to extinction in many western states,” Molvar said. “In order to return the wolf and restore the balance of nature, it is necessary to apply federal protections that supersede anti-wolf state politics that push wolf populations toward extinction rather than recovery.”