The hunter who shot and killed a gray wolf last month in the woods of Oregon may pay a hefty price for the transgression. Gray wolves were considered an endangered species by state officials up until last week, when the decision was made to delist them from Oregon’s Endangered Species Act. Since killing the wolves outside of state-sanctioned “wolf-management plans” is still illegal, the offender could pay up to $6,250 in fines and spend a year in jail.
Brennon Witty reportedly shot a male member of the northeastern Oregon Umatilla River Pack, who was affixed with a radio collar and named OR22, in early October. The hunter possibly confused the wolf with a coyote, which are legal to hunt with the proper license, yet are half the size of gray wolves. Reuters reports Witty was charged on 7 November with killing an endangered or threatened species and hunting with a rifle without a big game tag, according to Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan.
An estimated 81 gray wolves in 16 different packs have made their homes throughout Oregon. They are native to the area, yet were completely eradicated during the early 20th century. The wolves first returned to the area in 2008 and their numbers have steadily been increasing. Ironically, Oregon may be implementing a phase of a wolf-management plan that could allow a wolf hunt in selected areas where the predators are killing deer and elk. This state-sanctioned hunt is likely to take place in January, 2017.