E. Ore. counties drop cyanide trap use

Wildlife agencies halt practice after gray wolf accidentally killed

Katy Nesbitt

ENTERPRISE — Using cyanide traps to kill coyotes was halted in six Eastern Oregon counties to protect the region’s burgeoning wolf population.

Following the unintentional kill of a gray wolf Feb. 10 in Wallowa County, an agreement between Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency that manages gray wolves in Eastern Oregon, and USDA Wildlife Services, the federal agency that controls predators on private land, M-44s, spring-activated devices containing cyanide powder, will no longer be used to control predators in Baker, Wallowa, Union, Umatilla, Morrow and Grant counties.

A Shamrock Pack adult male, OR-48, was collared this winter on the Zumwalt Prairie, according to Mike Hansen, assistant Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist at Enterprise. Following his capture and being outfitted with a GPS collar, OR-48 went on a solo trek that took him to Baker County.

The wolf was killed when he encountered an M-44 on its return to Wallowa County. The trap was set by a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agent in an area that at the time was not designated by the state as an area of known wolf activity.

Directly after the incident Rick Hargrave, deputy administrator for ODFW’s Information and Education Division, said his agency was unaware of Wildlife Service’s use of M-44s.

Michelle Dennehy, wildlife communications coordinator, stated in an email after the incident that Wildlife Services informed the state they had removed all M-44s from areas of known wolf activity identified by ODFW.

The agencies are continuing to work together to ensure information about wolf activity is communicated effectively.

“We appreciate that Wildlife Services has voluntarily removed M-44s,” Doug Cottam, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator, said. “We also recognize we want to increase our communication between our agencies. We want to develop a more effective system to ensure that Wildlife Services’ staff working in areas with wolves know what ODFW knows about wolf activity.”

After the initial agreement between the state and federal agencies, Dave Williams, Oregon state director for Wildlife Services, said ODFW wanted an extension on the ban of M-44s in much of Northeastern Oregon.

“We were requested in writing by ODFW to immediately discontinue use of M-44s in Baker, Wallowa, Union, Umatilla, Grant and Morrow counties,” Williams said. “Prior to that request we pulled up M-44s in areas of known wolf activity and adjacent to those areas where we felt an additional margin of precaution was needed.”

Dennehy’s email said ODFW does not have regulatory authority over the coyote control work of Wildlife Services or the use of M-44s. However, the two agencies regularly work together on wildlife management including wolf management. Wildlife Services has been an important partner in helping ODFW manage wolf-livestock conflict.

Williams said moving forward it will be important for both agencies to share information on wolf sightings.

“We should know as much as ODFW where wolves are so that we can continue to do our job and continue to use the tools in our toolbox the best we can,” Williams said.

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The Baker City Herald
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