A 38-year-old Clackamas man says he feared for his life when he shot and killed a gray wolf 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, which makes it the first time a wolf has been killed in this manner in Oregon since the animals returned 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 told troopers he was hunting elk alone when he repeatedly noticed some type of animal moving around him, and later noticed two more, which he assumed were coyotes.
One began running directly toward him, he stated, and fearing for his life he shot the animal once at a distance of 27 yards. The other two 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 a coyote, the man returned to the site with fellow hunters and determined the animal was a wolf. An ODFW biologist examined the carcass, and found it was an 83-pound female associated with the OR-30 pair occupying the Starkey and Ukiah units in Umatilla and Union counties.
After consulting with the Union County District Attorney’s Office, authorities decided not to prosecute the case. Killing wolves is illegal in Oregon, except in defense of human life or in limited circumstances involving livestock predation. The most recent known wolf population in Oregon was 112 animals documented at the end of 2016.
Initial examination indicates the wolf was not a breeding female, but a DNA analysis will be done to confirm that.
Roblyn Brown, acting ODFW coordinator, said dangerous encounters between wolves and people are rare. Wolves usually avoid humans if they see, hear or smell people nearby, she said.
“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.