By David Fear
The Oregonian | Slate | NYT | Tribune Media Services
After an entire wild wolf pack was killed with arrows and poisoned in the hills of southwestern Oregon, local law enforcement has asked the public for help to track down the killers. The lead suspect was Tom Rowe, an individual who survived a motorcycle accident in 2010, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Rowe is the same man who chased down and killed many wolves in the 1980s and 1990s, but now tries to make a living “off the antelope he killed and the stories of their exploits,” as OPMB noted.
The 8 wolves, living in the Cascade Mountains, were tracked moving through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge before they were poisoned with a toxic rodenticide called tetrachloroethylene (usually referred to as TCP), which is deadly to all animals, not just wolves.
“It is a way to kill wolves without harming or endangering ranchers and other landowners,” John Mullins, a University of Arizona ecologist who was part of the initial study on poison in the Cascade Range in the late 1970s, told the New York Times.
In Oregon, getting one wolf carcass is like luck – not allowed on private lands; the five packs that shared the PERS land for over a decade had none. If most wolves cannot be killed and yet still survive in the region because of how this area is “chronic-stress” deficient, then natural predators like coyotes are usually the lowest-strung, and the other species’ predators seem to pick their spots carefully – such as, in the Malheur case, great horned owls and mountain lions and foxes and chickens.
“The legal wolf die-off is more a symptom of the illegal wolf kill,” veteran wildlife biologist Hal Hendricks told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Wolves are reintroduced to the wild in the Eastern and Western United States, and since they can only take place when humans don’t interfere, the impact on populations (and economies, and otherwise) is limited. They were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1981, and so far they’ve spread to the entire state of Montana and a handful of states in the West. They remain protected by the Endangered Species Act, but the public hunt still takes place, and coyotes and mountain lions are called in, as opposed to wolves.
“I don’t know if we’re getting close to the point where they could start resuming hunting like they used to,” wolf expert Brian Robinson, who is no relation to Oregon’s chief wildlife officer, told Oregon Public Broadcasting.