The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized killing two wolves from the Meacham Pack in Northeast Oregon, the agency announced Thursday.
The decision came at the behest of a rancher and sparked immediate outrage from conservation groups.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a national group with a chapter in Portland, criticized the choice to cull two wolves from a pack with four 4-month-old pups as well as the decision to issue the kill permit to a livestock owner who requested the whole pack be killed.
"ODFW has said that 90% of the cattle have been moved from the pasture, and the rest are being moved right now, yet they are going to kill wolves anyway," said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.
"That doesn't sound like a decision to conserve wolves or protect livestock. That just sounds like revenge."
In their announcement, ODFW says the agency received the request on Aug. 21 after the rancher lost four livestock animals to wolves. The rancher "requested that the entire pack be killed," ODFW says.
The agency says they forced a compromise, citing an "incremental approach" to wolf management. The kill permit does not apply to the pups in the pack, ODFW says.
The announcement continues an ongoing debate between livestock owners, ODFW and local conservation groups.
Last week 18 Oregon conservation organizations petitioned Gov. Kate Brown to change the state's wolf policy. The organizations, led by Oregon Wild, were upset about ODFW's killing of four wolves in Harl Butte pack in Northeastern Oregon last month.
"Concerning the Harl Butte pack, ODFW chose to kill four wolves at the request of a livestock manager for an out-of-state company," they wrote to Brown. "The action could drop the state's known adult wolf population to 107 – less than in 2015."
Curt Melcher, ODFW Director, says that while killing wolves may not be popular, it is a necessary management action.
"While it's disheartening for some people to see ODFW killing wolves," Melcher says in the agency's news release on Thursday, "our agency is called to manage wildlife in a manner consistent with other land uses, and to protect the social and economic interests of all Oregonians while it conserves gray wolves."