SALEM, Ore. — Gray wolves no longer receive protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, but they do from Oregon and Washington.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally removed the gray wolf species from the endangered species list effective Monday, Jan. 4, in the lower 48 United States. The change transfers wolf protections from the federal government to state governments. In Oregon, that job goes to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The known wolf population in the state has grown from 14 in 2009 to 158 at the end of 2019, with 141 of those found in ODFW’s eastern management zone.
ODFW said in a press release the most significant change to the management of Oregon’s wolves will be in the form of depredation. ODFW could allow the lethal removal of a wolf in situations where nonlethal measures have proven unsuccessful.
Nonlethal and preventative measures for resolving conflicts with wolves are a focus for ODFW.
“Wolves remain protected throughout the state. Hunting and trapping of wolves remains prohibited statewide,” according to an ODFW press release.
Fish and Wildlife encouraged livestock producers to visit their website to review preventative measures to limit conflicts with wolves and to sign up for updates on wolf-livestock conflicts.
“We thank all landowners in areas with wolves for going the extra mile to implement nonlethal measures over the past few years,” said ODFW Director Curt Melcher. “We know that regardless of whether or not you lose livestock to wolves, their presence requires changes to your business practices, and we thank you for taking these steps to reduce conflicts with wolves.”
ODFW identifies “areas of known wolf activity,” where packs have become established — such as the Clark Creek Pack in Union and Wallowa counties. The agency communicates with livestock producers in these areas about wolf conservation and nonlethal protection measures, such as fencing, protection dogs and alarms. They emphasize these measures in “areas of depredating wolves,” which can encompass all or part of a pack’s AKWA.
When wolves kill livestock in AKWAs, ranchers have a little more recourse under Oregon law than they did under the federal law. Now, they’d be allowed to kill those wolves, but only if they satisfy two requirements. First, they must have used at least one nonlethal measure to protect their livestock from wolves “prior to and on the day of the incident of depredation,” according to the law. Second, they must have removed or neutralized “reasonably accessible unnatural attractants of potential wolf-livestock conflict,” such as bones or carcasses, at least seven days prior to the depredation incident.
In areas of depredating wolves (ADWs), landowners have the additional requirement of implementing at least one nonlethal measure in the area-specific conflict deterrence plan that is specific to the location, type of livestock operation, time of the year and/or period of livestock production associated with the depredation. That measure may, in some cases, be the same as the nonlethal measure used to fulfill the AKWA requirement.
Financial assistance for livestock producers who’ve lost animals to wolf conflicts or who wish to implement nonlethal measures to prevent those losses is available through the Department of Agriculture. For more information, visit oregon.gov/oda.