Earlier this month the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission agreed to delist wolves from the state endangered species list in a momentous vote. The decision prompted a lot of questions, including whether state officials had plans for a hunting season anytime soon. The Oregon State Department of Fish and Wildlife recently clarified that while the delisting was controversial, it will have little immediate effect on the state’s wolf population.
“Any take of wolves is highly regulated in Oregon and the delisting does not mean additional take is now allowed. Hunters and trappers may not take wolves in Oregon at this time. The Wolf Plan does not allow for general season sport hunting of wolves in any phase of wolf management,” Fish and Wildlife said in an update.
There are currently about 80 wolves spread across 16 organized packs in the state. Officials said that under Oregon’s Wolf Plan, the delisting allows game wardens to cull wolves if there is evidence of chronic depredation or wolf-related declines of prey populations. That could take effect as early as 2017.
“I think the Wolf Plan has been unbelievably successful in bringing together diverse interests,” said Commissioner Bruce Buckmaster. “I believe we have wolves because of the Plan and the forbearance of eastern Oregonians in abiding by the plan. It is incumbent on everybody to continue sticking with the plan. We need to keep everybody at the table.”
There was no shortage of opposition to the delisting decision. On November 9 when commissioners met the public to hear arguments, plenty of people came in to try and sway them against removing the species from the endangered species list. In the end the commissioners voted 6-2 to go ahead with the delisting.
“The big message that we got today is people want to protect wolves and that Oregonians love their wildlife,” said Commissioner Holly Akenson.
Commisioners have asked Fish and Wildlife to consider increasing penalties for killing a wolf without cause. Currently the maximum penalty for unlawfully taking a wolf is a $6,250 fine and one year in jail.
Wolves west of Highways 395, 75, and 95 are still protected under the federal endangered species list. Only a small portion of the state’s wolf population lives there, including the Rogue Pack, which has gained something of a celebrity status in recent months. The adult male of that pack is the famous traveling wolf OR-7.
Image courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Widlife