Oregon lawmakers have approved a statewide ban on using drones to hunt, fish and trap wildlife.
The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2534 on Thursday, which also prohibits flying drones to scout animals or interfere with other hunters.
Previously, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife allowed tracking big game with unmanned aircraft, but stipulated sportsmen couldn’t go hunting within eight hours after doing so.
Brian Jennings, Oregon state coordinator for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, said they felt the regulation was too vague and difficult to enforce. The group backed HB2534 as a way to solve the issue and promote fair chase.
Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, took up the bill and it was met with universal approval at the Capitol. It passed the House 59-0, with Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, D-Portland, excused from voting.
Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, said there was no discussion about the bill in caucus and everyone agreed it was a good measure. Drones would take the sport out of sportsmanship, he said, and have no place in Eastern Oregon’s hunting tradition.
“Everybody saw that. It made sense,” Hansell said.
Once the bill is signed by Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon will join Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and New Mexico as western states to ban drone hunting. Jennings said he is pleased with the legislature’s support of fair and ethical hunting.
“There’s really no ethical means of hunting with a drone,” said Jennings, who is based in Bend. “It just gives man too much of an edge.”
If hunting with drones were to become widespread, it would raise havoc with wildlife and create mayhem in the wilderness, Jennings said.
Duane Dungannon, state coordinator for the Oregon Hunters Association, also supported the bill in a prepared statement.
“Fair chase is a crucial element of modern-day hunting, and drones don’t fit within the definition of fair chase,” Dungannon said. “Technology is advancing so fast that it’s difficult to stay out in front of it. This is an effort to at least try to catch up with it.”
HB2534 would not stop ODFW from using drones for research or to benefit wildlife management or habitat, according to the bill.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-564-4547.