Oregon is mulling a proposal that would make many hunters and ranchers happy and, by extension, make anti-hunters and environmentalists livid.
The state has proposed issuing problem-wolf permits, allowing hunters to take wolves that cause livestock damage or major declines in game populations. No hunting season would be enacted, yet environmentalists are opposing the measure because they believe it will pave the way for a wolf season.
Portland’s NBC affiliate KGW News reports that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife proposed the measure to provide a cost-effective management tool for the state’s roughly 150 wolves. The state currently pays wolf biologists to shoot problem animals if a population reaches “Phase III” of Oregon’s wolf management plan—seven breeding pairs for three consecutive years. This ensures the wolves are not unsustainably harvested but predation is kept in check.
The plan reads:
When Phase III is reached, non-lethal techniques will remain the first choice of managers in dealing with conflicts. However, more emphasis may be put on lethal control to ensure protection of livestock if it can be demonstrated that non-lethal methods are likely to put livestock at substantial risk. In areas where chronic wolf problems are occurring, wolf managers may seek assistance from private citizens through special permits for controlled take to resolve conflict. In addition, liberalized options for lethal control by livestock producers will be considered in consultation with wolf managers in circumstances where such activities can enhance the probability of relief for the livestock producer.
Those techniques, both lethal and non-lethal, put a strain on the state and its taxpayer-provided dollars.
“Currently . . . a large expenditure of personnel and financial resources is involved,” KGW quoted a state report as saying. “It follows that future use of hunters and trappers . . . would be expected to assist.”
“Right now, a wolf biologist goes out and shoots the wolves when there’s a problem,” Jim Akenson, conservation director for the Oregon Hunters Association, told KGW. “Why not utilize the situation in a manner that provides a hunting opportunity, while also serving a management need?”
The controlled hunting would only affect wolves in the eastern third of Oregon and would be conducted by licensed hunters and trappers.
The measure is one of ten proposals being considered by the ODFW as part of its five-year revisions to the wolf management plan. ODFW staff will make a recommendation to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which will then consider the ten proposals during an April 21 meeting.