A 38-year-old Clackamas man says he feared for his life when he shot and killed a gray wolf Friday, Oct. 27 while hunting elk in Union County, according to Oregon State Police.
Upon further investigation, the hunter will not face charges after authorities determined the shooting was in self-defense — a first for Oregon since wolves returned to the state sometime in the late 1990s.
The hunter, who was not identified in a press release, reported himself to OSP and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. The man said he was hunting elk alone when he repeatedly noticed some type of animal moving around him.
A short time later, the man observed three of what he assumed were coyotes. One began running directly toward him, and “fearing for his life” he shot it once at a distance of 27 yards. The other two then disappeared out of sight, and the man returned to his hunting camp in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit.
Still unsure if what he shot was actually a coyote, the man returned to the site with fellow hunters and discovered the animal was a wolf. A wildlife biologist examined the carcass, and found it was an 83-pound female associated with the OR-30 pair, which has been occupying the Starkey and Ukiah units since April.
After consulting with the Union County District Attorney’s Office, authorities decided not to prosecute the hunter. Killing wolves is illegal in Oregon, except in defense of human life or in limited circumstances involving livestock predation.
An initial examination indicates the wolf was not a breeding female, but a DNA analysis will be done to be sure. The most recent known wolf population in Oregon was 112 animals, documented at the end of 2016.
Roblyn Brown, acting ODFW coordinator, said dangerous encounters between wolves and people are rare, and wolves will usually avoid humans if they see, hear or smell people nearby.
“If you see a wolf or any other animal and are concerned about your safety, make sure it knows you are nearby by talking or yelling to alert it to your presence,” Brown said. “If you are carrying a firearm, you can fire a warning shot into the ground.”
The shooting marks the sixth wolf killed so far this year in Eastern Oregon. Four members of the Harl Butte pack were shot in Wallowa County after repeated attacks on livestock. One member of the Meacham pack was also killed after preying on cattle four times in eight days.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.