Reducing Protection for Wolves

24 April 2015 | Defenders of Wildlife News Release

BEND, Ore.Slow but steady growth in Oregon’s wolf population has triggered an Oregon Wildlife Commission review of whether state Endangered Species Act protections are still warranted for the species, a process that started today after the Commission was briefed by wildlife officials on the status of Oregon’s wolves. Wildlife conservation groups have expressed strong opposition to any proposal that would remove or weaken state protections for Oregon’s gray wolves, citing concerns the population is not fully recovered and still faces significant threats.

In her testimony to the commission today, Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife’s senior northwest representative, said:

“At last count – and for the first time in nearly a century – Oregon had 77 wolves and eight breeding pairs confirmed by state biologists in 2014. Nearly all wolves live in the Northeast portion of the state, making this population highly vulnerable to disease, illegal poaching, and lethal control if conflicts with livestock are not well managed. Removing state protections could limit their dispersal farther westward in the state where there is ample suitable unoccupied habitat. Further, losing protections would make it easier to kill wolves and reduce emphasis on proactive, nonlethal methods to reduce conflicts with livestock operations.

“So far Oregon has implemented strong and balanced management plans for wolves, but we understand the intense pressure from wolf opponents to remove state-based protections even in western Oregon where only one pack has successfully bred pups. We encourage the commission to conduct a neutral and unbiased review of the information presented and make a decision for wolves that is based on the best available wolf conservation science, and not on politics.”

Background: Wolf populations were eradicated from Oregon by the mid-1930s but were listed as a federally protected species in 1978 and a state protected species in 1987. The first known wolf returning to Oregon was discovered in 1999 and the first breeding pair produced pups born in Oregon in 2008. Wolves were federally delisted in the eastern third of Oregon in 2012 as part of the 2011 Congressional budget rider that removed federal protection for wolves in Idaho and Montana. In the western two-thirds of Oregon, wolves are federally protected. However, in 2013 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a proposal to remove federal protections for wolves across most of the lower-48 states, including western Oregon. It is unclear when or if, the Service will attempt to finalize a national gray wolf delisting rule.

Maintaining at least four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in eastern Oregon moves wolves in that portion of the state from phase one to phase two under Oregon’s Wolf Management Plan and triggers a status review of the species, which could theoretically lead to a state delisting of wolves. Maintaining at least seven breeding pairs in the state for three consecutive years will move the wolves from phase two to phase three under the Oregon wolf management plan, at which time a limited controlled hunt of wolves could be considered.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

Suzanne Stone: sstone@defenders.org; (208) 861-4655

Melanie Gade: mgade@defenders.org ; (202) 772-0288


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