Gray wolf populations are on the rise in Oregon, but that may not necessarily be good news for the animals.
The Statesman Journal reports that the state may have enough potential wolf couples in 2015 for the minimum requirements to delist the animal.
“We were told in the beginning that when wolves first came to the county, we were waiting for that day,” said Todd Nash, wolf committee chairman for the Oregon Cattleman Association, in an interview with the newspaper.
According to Oregon’s Endangered Species Act, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife must verify four breeding pairs in eastern Oregon for three consecutive years.
In 2012, there were six pairs and last year the organization located four pairs. It’s predicted that 2014’s count won’t be complete until early next year, but early reports show more than four couples.
By removing wolves from the state’s endangered species list, ranchers would be permitted to use lethal force to defend their animals in more situations.
According to ODFW, shooting a wolf is considered a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of $6,250 fine and a year in jail.