This week the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the poaching death of another wolf, the fifth illegal wolf slaying in the state so far this year.
OR-88 was the breeding female of the beleaguered Lookout Mountain Pack of northeast Oregon. In the photo announcing her death, she’s on her side, a gaping, dark red wound on her right shoulder.
Her death is part of an upward trend of wolf poaching in Oregon that wildlife advocates say is associated with decreasing protections for the species.
“It’s tragic enough when a wolf gets killed,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “And it’s even more tragic when a wolf has been illegally killed.”
Poachers have killed at least 21 gray wolves in Oregon since 2015, the year Oregon removed state Endangered Species Act protections for the canids.
Last year, after the Trump administration yanked gray wolves in the lower 48 states from the federal endangered species list, at least eight wolves were poached in Oregon, the highest number reported in the past decade.
A federal judge restored Endangered Species Act protections to wolves earlier this year, but Oregon’s poaching problems have yet to subside.
Oregon updates its wolf management plan about every five years and made its last revision in 2019. Weiss said the state will need to address the rise in poaching during the next plan update.
“[Wolves] are really valuable to wild nature. They’re really valuable as part of our cultural and natural heritage,” Weiss said. “No matter what you think of wolves, poaching is wrong.”
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Michelle Dennehy said that despite the uptick in poaching, the state’s wolf population has maintained a strong foothold. The last minimum wolf count issued by the agency for 2021 counted 175 wolves.
“As terrible as poaching is, and we’re definitely very concerned about it here at ODFW, we’re not expecting to see a decline in the population at this point,” Dennehy said.
The agency has determined that if human-caused wolf mortalities — including poaching, vehicle collisions and agency-approved killings — remain below 20% of the population, the population should continue to grow and expand.
Still, ODFW is working with the Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon State Police to combat the increase in poaching of wolves and other wildlife. Earlier this year, the DOJ hired a special prosecutor devoted to locating, investigating and prosecuting poachers.
The Oregon Wildlife Coalition is offering an $11,500 reward for information leading to an arrest or citation in the death of OR-88.
Anyone with information regarding the wolf’s death is urged to call the Oregon State Police Turn in Poachers hotline at 1-800-452-7888.