Oregon wolves are on the move. Just last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) confirmed that wolf tracks were found on Mount Hood last December. Oregon has enough suitable habitat for 1,450 wolves. So why did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) remove federal protections for gray wolves in 2011 in the eastern third of the state when there are currently only 64 wild wolves in Oregon? Wolf reintroduction advocates discussed this quandary and more at “Wolfshop,” part of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference on Feb. 28.
The workshop started with a commemorative wolf howl for the late Tim Lillebo, an Oregon Wild environmental advocate, then transitioned into wolf issues from around the U.S. On the list of topics was the ever-enigmatic Journey, or OR-7, who crossed the border from Oregon into California twice last December. Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said that Journey’s radio collar is due to expire, and it’s unlikely that the collar will be replaced.
Rob Klavins, wildlife advocate for Oregon Wild, said that Oregonians are increasingly interested in wolf welfare, even in predominantly conservative places like Wallowa County. With the May 2013 settlement of the lawsuit between ODFW and conservation groups, protections for wolves are improved, limiting the authority of ranchers and the state to kill wolves without two prior instances of depredation in a six-month period (see wkly.ws/1p7). “We have now the most progressive wolf plan, arguably, in the country,” Klavins said. “But it is far from perfect.”
Klavins pointed out that during the year in which a moratorium on wolf killing took place because of the lawsuit, the population of wolves increased, while the number of attacks on livestock decreased. “It may seem easy to pick up a rifle and shoot a wolf, but that’s not always the best long-term solution,” he said.
Now, the USFWS is proposing to remove federal protections for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Weiss said an independent scientific peer review panel last month analyzed the proposal and found it problematic. “The reviewers found it was not based on the best available science, with substantial errors that misrepresented the research,” she said.
The delisting proposal generated over one million public comments, and the comment period continues through March 27. To submit a comment, visit http://fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery.