Photo courtesy USFWS, William Campbell
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will apparently not ask state agencies to reopen their investigation into the killing of a female wolf Oct. 27, 2017, in Union County, despite concerns from multiple conservation groups.
Brian Scott, 38, of Clackamas, reported that he shot the wolf in self-defense while elk hunting in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit west of La Grande. The wolf, he said, was charging at him though wildlife advocates dispute his claim, pointing to the bullet’s trajectory and other discrepancies in the physical evidence.
A coalition of groups — 18 in all — wrote to Gov. Brown asking her to reopen the state’s investigation, though in her reply dated Dec. 1, 2017 Brown said she has confidence in the outcome after consulting with the Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and Union County District Attorney’s Office.
“While Oregon is working toward wolf recovery, any wolf mortality is a serious concern that deserves a full and rigorous investigation,” Brown wrote.
Scott told investigators he feared for his life when he shot the wolf at a distance of 27 yards. He described seeing two animals flank behind him, while a third came running directly toward him.
The groups, however, argue that the bullet passed through the wolf’s shoulders, perhaps indicating it was standing broadside to Scott and not charging. Scott has said he cannot explain the trajectory, and does not know if the wolf veered sideways before he shot. The Union County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges.
Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild, said they will continue to put pressure on the governor and agencies regarding wolf poaching investigations, and ensure those protections are taken seriously.
“We now have, I think by anyone’s standards, an epidemic of wolf poaching around the state,” Pedery said. “That’s a situation that should be deeply concerning for anyone who cares about wildlife in this state.”
In her letter, Gov. Brown reiterated that killing wolves is illegal everywhere in Oregon, and remains a federal crime west of highways 395, 78 and 95.
“Too many wolves have been found shot in Oregon where the shooters have not been identified,” she wrote. “Oregon State Police is appropriately investigating those cases, supporting their federal counterparts, identifying poachers and ready to assist in their prosecution.”
ODFW is also in the process of revising its Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which Brown said will “keep wolves on the path to recovery across the entire state, focus on efforts to reduce wolf-livestock conflict rather than merely responding to it, and incorporate the best current science into its management practices.” Oregon had 112 confirmed wolves as of the end of 2016. An updated 2017 population report is expected in March.