Just as the wolf population in Oregon was beginning to recover, ranchers in the remote eastern part of the state are supporting new legislation that would allow them to shoot wolves on sight.

Gray wolf pup from northeast Oregon’s Wenaha pack sniffs snow in western Wallowa County. (Photo: Oregon Department of FIsh and Wildlife)

    Under the proposed legislation–House Bill 3452–ranchers would be allowed to kill gray wolves without a permit if they “are reasonably believed by the person to have attacked or harassed livestock or working dogs.” Current law says the wolves have to be caught in the act and that a permit is needed.

    According to a representative from the wolf committee of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, ranchers have been “powerless” to stop the wolves predation as it’s impossible to catch them “in the act” of killing livestock.

    Rob Klavins, speaking for the environmental group Oregon Wild said, “This goes far beyond what the wolf plan called for.” He said the language in the bill “could allow poaching to go unpunished.”

    When the Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee asked a panel of ranching advocates if any of them thought the “bill could allow or encourage poaching?” they said it wouldn’t.

    Two years ago, Oregon Wild won a temporary injunction on most wolf killing in the state after filing a lawsuit challenging how a wolf plan plan enacted in 2005 which set recovery numbers lower than environmental groups wanted, but a higher bar than ranchers wanted when they could legally kill a wolf, was being carried out.

    Ranchers and conservationists have been fighting over wolves in Oregon for decades. Sponsored by two Umatilla County Republican legislators, the bill is expected to get a lot of attention.

    As reported in the Oregonian, “the proposal to ease restrictions appears to have momentum.”

    Source: Oregonian