$25,000 Reward for Information on Fatally Poisoned Oregon Eagles and Wolves


Several protected animals, including three gray wolves and two golden eagles, have died after being poisoned in Oregon.

The wolves—one adult male, one adult female and a juvenile—two golden eagles, a cougar and a coyote were found dead in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area between February and Marc. Postmortems found that they had all been poisoned.

An investigation into the deaths has been opened, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon State Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information.

These deaths are the latest in a series of poisonings that have claimed the lives of 19 Oregon wolves since 2015, as well as several domestic dogs, according to a statement from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

The recent wave of animal deaths was the result of a poisoned cow carcass that had been planted in a creek in the Imnaha River drainage. The ODFW was first alerted to the deaths after they received a mortality alert for the female wolf, which had been collared. They then also discovered the dead male and juvenile. The golden eagle, coyote and cougar deaths were also linked to the carcass, as were a dead Steller’s jay and black-billed magpie found next to the cow.

“Northeast Oregon is known for its natural resources and outdoor opportunities, so it’s just terrible to have this going on,” Bernadette Graham-Hudson, ODFW wildlife division administrator, said in the statement. “We hope whoever is poisoning wildlife is quickly caught and punished for the safety of people, wildlife, and pets in northeast Oregon.”

The $25,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest, criminal conviction or civil penalty. In addition, the Oregon Wildlife Coalition is offering $11,500 for information about the case.

The target of the poisoning was likely wolves, with all the other deaths being collateral damage, the ODFW said. The wolves were members of the South Snake pack, one of only a few wolf packs remaining in the state.

Once common across the entire U.S., by the late 1940s gray wolves were extirpated in Oregon because of extensive hunting, trapping and poisoning. Some states implemented reintroduction programs, but gray wolves began naturally recolonizing Oregon from adjacent areas, particularly Idaho, where reintroduction efforts had been successful. Oregon had 178 wolves at the end of 2023.

Wolves living west of Highway 395 are listed on the federal Endangered Species Act and are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while wolves east of Highway 395 are federally delisted and managed under the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The dead wolves were found east of Highway 395, meaning they were protected by state law.

Golden eagles, on the other hand, are federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Poisoning a wolf is a Class C felony in Oregon, which may come with a $125,000 fine and up to five years in prison, the ODFW statement said.

“Poaching federally protected wildlife such as golden eagles, or poaching multiple animals, also elevates the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony, according to new sentencing guidelines passed by the Oregon State Legislature in 2019,” the statement said.

The ODFW and state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) staff donned protective hazmat gear to remove the poisoned carcass from the creek before more animals could be killed, either by eating the carcass or from the leaching of the toxins into the environment. The carcass was dragged into a tarp and then carried out of the creek via helicopter.

“The safety of ODFW staff is our top priority, and we thank DEQ for their guidance that helped us get this poison off the landscape for the safety of wildlife, in a way that didn’t jeopardize the health of our staff,” Graham-Hudson said.

This article by Jess Thomson was first published by Newsweek on 17 May 2024. Lead Image: Stock images show a golden eagle and a gray wolf. Three gray wolves and two golden eagles died in Oregon after a poisoned cow carcass was placed in a creek. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS.

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