PORTLAND, Oregon, August 17, 2007 (ENS) – Two conservation groups have sweetened the pot for anyone who has information about the illegal shooting of a female endangered gray wolf in eastern Oregon last October.
Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity Thursday offered a $4,000 reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of the crime.
The fund is in addition to $5,000 that has been offered as a reward by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The animal was found dead in early October between Battle Mountain and Whittaker Flats along Oregon Highway 395 near Ukiah, Oregon.
Tests, recently completed at the agency’s national forensics laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, confirmed that it was a wolf and that it was killed by a bullet from a high velocity rifle.
Tests on the contents of the wolf’s stomach show that it had not been feeding on livestock.
Further DNA testing is planned to determine if it was an offspring of the wolves reintroduced into Idaho.
Ed Bangs, Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator, said that illegal killings this past year are a primary factor in not meeting the agency’s goal of 30 wolf packs in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
Achieving 30 packs would start the three year countdown to removing the gray wolf from its federally protected status, he said.
Anyone with information about the wolf’s death can call Special Agent Jim Stinebaugh, 503-682-6131, or Senior Trooper Darren Chandler, 541-963-7175.
“The killing of endangered wildlife like this wolf is a crime against Oregon’s children,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. “Wolves are the icons of American wilderness, and we hope this reward will produce information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever committed this crime.”
Since their reintroduction to the northern Rockies in 1994, wolf populations have recovered in the northern Rockies. The animals have been slowly making their way back into Oregon, with a total of six confirmed and many unconfirmed sightings documented in the past 10 years.
In response, the state of Oregon completed a wolf management plan in 2005, which sets a goal of eight packs split between eastern and western Oregon.
“Wolves are an integral part of the web of life in the American West,” said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “With continued legal protection from poaching and preservation of Oregon’s wildlands, this majestic animal could once again thrive in our state.”
Once common in Oregon, wolves were eradicated from the state by the 1940s as part of a concerted effort to shoot, trap or poison every wolf in the western United States.
In 1974, wolves were protected as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and today killing a wolf is a federal crime.
The law provides for criminal penalties of up to $100,000 plus a year in jail for a single offense, and Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents say they will “aggressively pursue the investigation” of this wolf’s death.
“The impact of this illegal killing is deep. Everyone involved has made tremendous compromises to enable rural citizens and wolves to coexist,” said Suzanne Laverty, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife.
“Where wolves have been restored in the American West, they’re demonstrating a beneficial role in local ecosystems and disproving all the old myths,” she said. “When folks give them a chance, they learn wolves aren’t really ‘big and bad’ like in fairy tales.”
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007