When can a rancher shoot a wolf in Oregon? As a last resort

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday adopted provisions of a lawsuit settlement that will make Oregon the only state in the West where killing wolves that attack livestock is a last resort.

Added to provisions already enacted by the Legislature, the rules go to Gov. John Kitzhaber for his signature.

The rules require ranchers to show they have taken non-lethal steps, such as alarm boxes and low strings of fluttering plastic flags known as fladdery, to protect their herds before the state will send out a hunter to kill a wolf. There must also be hard evidence, such as GPS data showing a radio-collared wolf was in the area when a cow was killed, that wolves have attacked four times.

In return, ranchers get new rights to shoot wolves that they see attacking their herd, but only if those non-lethal protections are in place, and attacks have become chronic.

The settlement represents a new level of cooperation between conservation groups and ranchers, who have long fought over restoring wolves in the West, where they were wiped out by bounty hunters in the early part of the 20th century.

Oregon Wild and other conservation groups had sued the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, claiming that a kill order on the Imnaha pack, the first to establish in Oregon as well as the first to attack livestock, threatened to wipe out the pack.

Conservation groups claimed the actions violated the Oregon Endangered Species Act, which still protects wolves in the eastern two thirds of the state, where federal protections have been lifted.

The Oregon Court of Appeals barred the state from killing wolves for more than a year before the settlement was reached between conservation groups, the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, and the governor's office.

During that time, the number of wolves in Oregon went up, while the lethal attacks on livestock went down.

In Idaho, where the Oregon packs had migrated from, the numbers of lethal livestock attacks went up, along with the numbers of wolves killed, primarily by trophy hunters and trappers.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.