Billboard Keeps the Heat on Wolf Poacher
Groups advertise $10,000 reward in hopes of catching wolf killer
Local citizens and conservation groups today announced a new effort to bring the poacher who illegally shot an endangered wolf in Oregon to justice. Starting tomorrow, drivers travelling East on Hwy. 82 from La Grande will see a billboard with the image of the young wolf killed in September and the phone number to call with information about its death. The advertisement highlights a $10,000 reward being offered for information about the poaching and the statement "whatever you think of wolves…poaching is wrong!"
Wally Sykes of Joseph, Oregon is a founder of the community group Northeast Oregon Ecosystems which spearheaded the effort to raise funds from neighbors, friends, community members, and wildlife advocates in Wallowa County upset by the illegal killing. The group has also funded predator management presentations for ranchers and the range rider program implemented by Defenders of Wildlife in partnership with local ranchers.
"Tourism is vital to this area." said Sykes. "People come to see spectacular wild landscapes and wildlife. Just like in Yellowstone, the return of wolves to Oregon has the potential to draw visitors from all over the country. Anti-wildlife attitudes and rhetoric that result in the illegal killing of endangered species are counterproductive and give our community a black eye."
The wolf killed in September was collared by biologists in early August in an effort to track the Wenaha pack – one of only two known packs in Oregon. In a monthly wolf update, ODFW claimed the collaring effort began in 2007 and represented the agency's single largest wolf collaring effort. Photos of the silver male were circulated widely. The wolf was found dead on September 30th by wildlife agents and represents the third illegal wolf killing since the species first returned to Oregon after being exterminated over 60 years ago. Oregon's confirmed wolf population now stands at 24 wolves in 2 packs.
In response, local citizens, conservation groups, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have offered a combined reward of $10,000. High profile wolf poachings have also recently occurred in Washington.
"There is room in the West for both wildlife and people. Old attitudes of intolerance and fear don't get us anywhere," said Sykes. "Wolves were shot on sight until they were all gone. Living with wolves is going to require some adjustments, but it's the right thing to do in a state that prides itself on its conservation values."
A press release about the reward can be found here. Anyone with information about this wolf poaching should contact Special Agent Cindi Bockstadter at 503.682.6131
Wally Sykes, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, email@example.com
(Phone number available upon request)
Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife, 208.424.9385, firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Dyson, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, 541.963.3950 x22, email@example.com
Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild, 503.283.6343 ext 210, firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional background information
Oregon has largely avoided the wolf hysteria that has marred states like Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. However, anti-wolf rhetoric hit a high point last spring when wolves killed 6 calves in Wallowa County. Other losses were claimed, but unsubstantiated or investigated and disproved. The county reacted by attempting to declare an official state of emergency, and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife issued controversial kill permits for any two uncollared wolves in the area. Despite an end to the depredations, the agency continued to expand and extend the hunt – an action that generated several lawsuits for violating its own state wolf plan and federal law. In what conservationists considered a validation of their claims, Wildlife Services almost immediately and voluntarily suspended the hunt. In August, wolves were returned to the protections of the Federal Endangered Species Act.
Wolves are beginning to take tenuous steps towards recovery in Oregon. After returning to the state a little over a decade ago, Oregon confirmed its first pups in 2008. With the addition of 7 pups and confirmation of 3 wolves in Umatilla County, the confirmed population has grown to 24 animals and 2 breeding pairs. However, in addition to poaching, wolves face threats from cars and government-sanctioned killing. In 2008, Oregon experienced its first livestock losses to a pair of wolves that had been drawn in by a two-acre carcass pit. At the time, the wolves represented one-fifth of the state's known population and were in turn shot by government hunters. The Wenaha wolf pack has not been implicated in any depredations or conflict with humans.
Though wolves are the focus of a purposeful campaign of misinformation and fear, wolves have a marginal impact on the livestock industry, science is beginning to show their positive impact on the landscape, and the species is not viewed as a serious threat to humans. Despite Oregon's small wolf population, a management plan that allows wolves to be killed, and the threat of poachers, some interests continue to argue that both state and federal endangered species laws should be relaxed or eliminated entirely to make it easier to kill the recovering native predator.
Contributors to the reward fund include: Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, and Oregon Wild
Contributors to the billboard include: Defenders of Wildlife, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, & Oregon Wild