PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Oregon wildlife officials gave ranchers permission to kill endangered gray wolves without confirming that those specific wolves were responsible for killing six cattle calves, environmentalists claim in Federal Court. Oregon’s Wildlife Service killed two gray wolves last year and plans to kill two more of the state’s 14 wolves, according to the Hells Canyon Preservation Council and three other environmental groups.
Oregon’s only gray wolf pack, called the Imnaha pack, has lived in northeastern Oregon since January 2008, when a female wolf from Idaho crossed the Snake River and established a 10-wolf pack, the groups say.
Imnaha wolves were the first to live and reproduce in Oregon since the mid-1940s, after gray wolves had been “completely extirpated” from the state, the lawsuit states.
When the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife determined that wolves had killed six cattle calves in northeastern Oregon in May and June of this year, it issued seven permits allowing ranchers to kill wolves “caught in the act” of killing livestock, the groups say.
The agency also authorized Wildlife Services to “seek and kill” two wolves from the Imnaha pack, although information from the pack’s radio collars showed that the wolves were in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest when the calves were killed on ranches in Wallowa Valley.
The department has extended the permits through the end of August, despite evidence that the pack “has moved upslope from the valley,” and despite no livestock deaths attributed to wolves in the past month, the groups say.
The extended permit allegedly authorizes the killing of two wolves from the endangered pack.
“If Wildlife Services fulfills this permit,” the lawsuit states, “it will have killed four of the 16 wolves known to exist in the entire state of Oregon.”
Defendants are Oregon Wildlife Services Director David Williams, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The environmental groups demand a declaration that Wildlife Services violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing the permits without performing a full environmental analysis.
Filing counsel are Daniel Kruse with Cascadia Wildlands and Jennifer Schwartz with the Hells Canyon Preservation Council.