SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized the killing of two more wolves in eastern Oregon, several weeks after the state fatally shot two young wolves from the same pack.
The Lookout Mountain pack was suspected of injuring or killing five cows over two weeks in July, and the state on Monday authorized ranchers to kill up to four of the wolves, excluding the breeding pair. Another cow was attacked Friday, and the state approved an extension of the original permit, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The pack consists of the breeding pair, both of whom are fitted with radio tracking collars, two yearlings and five 4-month-old pups. Their territory is primarily in Baker County, near the Idaho and Washington borders.
Two of the pack’s seven pups were shot by state officials using a helicopter earlier this month.
Officials said the amount of time between attacks showed their strategy worked.
“We had five dead cows on the landscape over 14 days,” said Derek Broman, a carnivore biologist for the state, who noted the pack moved some 15 miles (24 kilometers) after the two wolves were killed. “We took action, and then we had no dead animals for 18 days.”
Wolf conservation advocates say they are shocked that the state agency wants even more wolves dead.
Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that the assertion that the pups’ death resulted in a greater lag time before the next conflict occurred is not credible.
“Any scientist knows that correlation is not causation,” he said.
Ranchers grazing livestock near the Lookout Mountain pack previously tried nonlethal ways to prevent their animals from being attacked by wolves, including moving their animals farther from the wolves and using radio sensors that set off bright lights and loud sirens when the wolves' collars were detected, according to Broman.
Because none of those methods prevented further attacks on livestock, Broman said the state was forced to consider other ways to change the pack’s behavior.
“This tool is not retribution,” he said. “It’s a tool to prevent conflict.”
Broman said the extreme drought affecting Oregon, along with recent heat waves, could be pushing the canids to seek out easier prey, a point echoed by Sristi Kamal, senior Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife. Kamal strongly disagrees with the state’s solution, however.
“Instead of killing wolves (the state) should be prioritizing coexistence tools and methods, especially as our vulnerable wolf population is already facing threats from the ongoing drought and water crisis,” Kamal said in a statement.
As of April, the state had 173 wolves in 22 identified packs.
Gray wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species list in January, allowing Fish and Wildlife to take over the management of their population.
A coalition of 70 groups filed a formal petition to re-list the gray wolf as an endangered species throughout the West. Last week, however, attorneys for the Biden administration asked a federal judge in California to reject the lawsuit from wildlife advocates.
Gary Frazer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assistant director for Ecological Services, suggested last week the federal government could still take steps to restore protections if population declines put wolves back on the path to extinction.