Oregon Wolf Pack Among 8 Killed by Poison; Police Seek Help With Investigation

Oregon State Police (OSP) asked the public for help Thursday after exhausting all leads in the poisoning of eight wolves earlier this year.

In a press release, the law enforcement agency said it's investigating five deaths from the Catherine Pack in Union County, and three from separate packs.

The Catherine Pack killings happened Feb. 9, when authorities were alerted by one of the wolves' collars and discovered the five deceased wolves and a dead magpie southeast of Mount Harris.

On March 11, authorities found another magpie, a skunk and a wolf from the Keating Pack deceased close to where the other animals had been discovered.

The Associated Press reported that the OSP sent the animals to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensics lab in Ashland. The lab released findings showing the animals had been poisoned.

Shortly after, in April and July, two other wolves were discovered in Union County, with the toxicology reports confirming two different types of poison in both wolves.

Sristi Kamal, a senior northwest representative for the Defenders of Wildlife in Portland, told the AP losing eight wolves "is so egregious," as there are only about 170 wolves in the state.

"This is horrific," Kamal said. "This is quite clearly an intentional and repeat offense."

Captain Stephanie Bigman of the OSP in Salem told the AP that as far as she is aware, the Catherine Pack is the first wolf pack to be fatally poisoned in Oregon.

"To my knowledge, there are no suspects," Bigman said. "All investigative leads have been exhausted and that is why we are reaching out to the public for assistance."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

wolves, Oregon
Officials in Oregon are asking for help locating those responsible for poisoning an entire wolf pack in the eastern part of the state earlier this year. Above, this Feb. 2017, file photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, shows a gray wolf in Oregon's northern Wallowa County. File/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP

"The poisoning of the Catherine wolf pack is tragic and disgusting" said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "No wolf should have to suffer such a fate. Awful events like this show how much more work is needed for us to coexist with these vitally important animals."

Wolves once ranged most of the U.S. but were wiped out in most places by the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns.

More than 2,000 wolves occupy six states in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest after animals from Canada were reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park starting in 1995.

However, wolves remain absent across most of their historical range. Wildlife advocates argue that continued protections are needed so they can continue to expand in California, Colorado, Oregon and other states.