Two Wolves Found Dead in Oregon Raise Poaching Suspicions
Typically, wolves don’t die in groups.
So when Oregon state officials found two dead adult wolves within 50 feet of each other on Aug. 24, it raised some questions.
Officers with the state fish and wildlife division are now investigating the mysterious deaths but have declined to comment on how the endangered animals died.
State police spokesperson Bill Fugate told a local radio station that the deaths occurred under “unnatural” circumstances, and that the animals could have been poached.
The two dead wolves were found in the northeast part of the state after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received an alert that one of its wolf GPS collars was emitting a “mortality signal,” said department spokesperson Michelle Dennehy.
OR-21, a female wolf that had been collared in June 2013 by the department, was one of the victims. She left her pack in 2014, found a mate, and had pups earlier this year. The department labeled the new group the Sled Springs pair and announced the wolves’ presence in the region so local ranchers could take steps to avoid “wolf-livestock conflicts.”
With OR-21 and her mate’s deaths, the fate of the orphaned five-month-old pups is uncertain, but the department is hopeful.
“At this stage, they’ll be fully weaned, and it’s not atypical for pups of this age to make it through the winter season,” Dennehy said.
But Amaroq Weiss, who handles West Coast wolf issues at the Center for Biological Diversity, isn’t so sure.
“Their survival chances are iffy at best,” Weiss said. “They’ll know how to bring down smaller animals, but their mother shows them how to hone the skills of hunting bigger prey, and now they won’t have that chance.”
An even bigger concern for the pups, Weiss said, is that with their lack of hunting ability, they could start targeting easier prey—such as livestock.
“People think that shooting wolves will lead to less conflict with livestock, but there’s proof that’s not the case,” she said.
But how does killing wolves result in more dead livestock? One study conducted by scientists at Washington State University that looked at 25 years of wolf predation and killing statistics from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that for each wolf killed, the odds of death by wolf predation rose by 4 percent for sheep and 5 to 6 percent for cattle.
“When you disrupt a pack, it only leads to more predation,” Weiss said.
Since 2007, state officials have confirmed that four wolves have been illegally killed in Oregon. There are 77 wolves known to reside in nine packs in Oregon, with a majority located in the state’s northeast corner.
Poaching the protected species can bring a year in jail and a fine of up to $6,250.
Police are asking anyone with information about the wolves’ deaths to contact Senior Trooper Kreg Coggins at (541) 426-3049, call the poaching tipster hotline at (800) 452-7888, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.