A radio-collared male wolf roams in northwestern Wallowa County. Oregon biologists say they have enough data to help decide whether it's time to take the gray wolf of the state's endangered list. (Oregon Fish and Wildlife)
on April 14, 2015
on April 14, 2015
State biologists are telling the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission there is enough information to consider taking the gray wolf off the state endangered species list.
A final decision is not scheduled until August in Salem, but the commission is to make the first step in the process -- deciding whether it has enough information to consider the issue -- when it meets April 24 in Bend.
At last count, Oregon had 77 wolves descended from animals introduced in Idaho in the 1990s. The 76-page status report says they are projected to increase at a rate of 7 percent a year, and the probability of a major drop in population is very low. There is plenty of habitat available on public lands, and wolves continue to expand their range, establishing at least one new pack in the western third of the state.
The rate of wolf attacks on livestock has been low, the review notes.
Hoping to gain greater freedom to kill wolves attacking livestock, the Oregon Cattlemen's Association has been pressing for the commission to delist wolves since a statewide census last winter showed they had exceeded their restoration goal of four breeding pairs producing pups that survive a year for three years running. At last count, there were at least seven breeding pairs, six in northeastern Oregon and one, led by the famous wanderer OR-7, in the southern Cascades.
Arguing that wolf numbers are still too low to justify lifting protections, conservation groups favor continuing endangered-species status to assure wolves continue to thrive.
A bill -- House Bill 3515 -- to prohibit the commission from listing wolves as threatened or endangered has been introduced in the Legislature. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Taking wolves off the state's endangered list would not open up hunting. However, their rising numbers have already triggered a relaxation of rules that now make it possible for ranchers to shoot wolves they see attacking herds.