Retired ODFW biologist: Hunt wolves as soon as possible

By Baker City Herald April 14, 2014 07:42 am

The Oregon Hunters Association issued a press release today that includes excerpts of an interview with Vic Coggins, a longtime wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlfe in Enterprise.

The press release follows:

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services considers removing gray wolves from the federal Endangered Species list, Vic Coggins, former longtime Oregon district wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Enterprise, believes that delisting is vital for managing wolves in Oregon. If approved by the USFWS, wolves throughout the U.S. would no longer be listed under the Endangered Species Act, except for the Mexican gray wolf in the southwest.

Recently retired, Coggins spent the last few years of his nearly 50-year career as a wildlife biologist dealing with wolves in northeastern Oregon as the animals moved into the area from Idaho. “They are costing the state a lot of money to manage and a lot of wildlife losses,” he said. “And that is also a loss of money and hunting opportunity."

Oregon’s first wolf pack, the Wenaha pack, was documented in 2008, with a second one, the Imnaha pack, forming in 2009. Oregon now has a population of at least 64 wolves in eight packs and several individual animals. All of Oregon’s known packs are currently located in the northeastern part of the state.

Coggins was on the scene when the Imnaha Pack was involved its the first livestock depredation and notes that the pack — which has a history of attacks on livestock — has killed 32 cows and wounded 11 between 2010 and 2013. “We thought it would take awhile for the first wolf depredations on livestock to happen but it didn’t take too long at all,” said Coggins.

In early 2011, two wolves from the Imnaha pack were killed in response to livestock depredations. Two more pack members were slated for removal later that same year but environmental groups filed a lawsuit stopping the action that resulted in a settlement with ODFW that set up new rules defining the circumstances when wolves can be killed to stop attacks on livestock.

Coggins also believes that wolves should be hunted as soon as possible to control their numbers and to help maintain their fear of humans. “We also need to get the wolves off the state Endangered Species list, which has a lot of restrictions for management,” he said.

Even if wolves are removed from the federal Endangered Species Act, they are still listed as Endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act. Once there are four breeding pairs of wolves in eastern Oregon for three consecutive years they can be considered for removal from the Oregon ESA. Last year was the second consecutive year that Oregon wolves had four breeding pairs with pups that survived at least until December 31.

“We don’t need wolves listed,” said Coggins. “The state is fully capable of recovering them.” As an example, Coggins notes that in the late 1960s, the cougar population was so low that they probably would have been listed if there had been an Endangered Species Act at the time. Instead, without any federal protections, the state recovered the population, and cougars are now present in nearly every part of Oregon. Moose have also been successfully colonizing northeastern Oregon in recent years without any ESA protections and now number about 70 animals and growing.

The Oregon Hunters Association is the state’s largest pro-hunting organization, with 10,000 members and 27 chapters statewide. Its mission is “to provide abundant huntable wildlife resources in Oregon for present and future generations, enhancement of wildlife habitat and protection of hunters rights.”