Alex Baumhardt

(Oregon Capital Chronicle) State fish and wildlife officials authorized the killing of six gray wolves in eastern Oregon during the past six weeks, bringing relief to ranchers who lost livestock to the wolves and heartache and anger to conservationists who see the killings as inhumane and ineffective.

The six wolves were caught with foothold traps and then shot by employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division. They were killed in Union and Wallowa counties after praying on privately owned livestock, according to Beth Quillian, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

For the state fish and wildlife agency to issue a permit for the killing of wolves, ranchers must document at least two incidents of livestock predation within nine consecutive months and alternative mitigation strategies must have failed, according to Quillian.

But conservationists say it doesn’t make sense to kill the limited number of wolves in Oregon. Amaroq Weiss, a senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, points to the numbers. The state has over a million cows and more than 160,000 sheep. Until 2021, gray wolves in Oregon were on the federal Endangered Species List, and as of late 2022, there were 178 in the state. That’s up from just 173 in 2020 and 175 in 2021, according to Oregon’s fish and wildlife department.

“It’s shocking that Oregon has so aggressively ramped up its killing of wolves on behalf of the livestock industry,” Weiss said in a news release.

On July 21, the state fish and wildlife department authorized the killing of up to four wolves from the Five Points Pack in Union County after two attacks on livestock within two weeks. They were the second and third attacks in the area within eight months. By Aug. 4, two adult females, one adult male and a one-year-old female wolf were killed by USDA employees on behalf of the ranchers.

On Aug. 15, state fish and wildlife officials issued permits to kill up to two members of the Wildcat Pack in Wallowa County after three attacks on livestock within three months. The ranchers attempted ground and aerial monitoring and moved cattle outside of normal pasture areas to avoid wolf conflict but this did not deter the wolves, according to the fish and wildlife department. By Aug. 31, two young male wolves were killed by USDA employees for the ranchers.

The state fish and wildlife department recently issued kill permits for two members of the Lookout Mountain pack in Baker County, after a rancher reported five confirmed wolf attacks on livestock since January. It would leave alive just two members of the four-member pack. In 2021, the state fish and wildlife agency allowed eight wolves from the pack to be killed due to depredation, including five pups.