PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and five conservation groups have teamed up to offer $15,500 for information about the illegal poaching of a federally protected gray wolf that was shot dead in a national forest in southern Oregon.
The wolf, known as OR-33, was being tracked by authorities and is one of at least eight that have been poached or died under mysterious circumstances in the state since 2015, the conservation groups said.
The groups in a statement Tuesday said OR-33 was found dead of gunshot wounds in Fremont Winema National Forest on April 23. DNA tests only recently confirmed that he was OR-33, a 4-year-old male who left a pack in northeast Oregon in 2015. His radio tracking collar stopped working last year.
BACKGROUND: Collared wolf OR-33 shot dead in southern Oregon
Over two days in June, he killed two goats and one lamb at a small livestock operation near the small city of Ashland just north of Oregon's border with California.
The federal agency is offering $5,000 for information about the poaching and the conservation groups are offering an additional $10,500 combined.
"Wolf recovery in Oregon depends on wolves like OR-33 making their way west and thriving, so his death is a major setback. We hope someone will do the right thing and come forward with information," said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Killing gray wolves in the western two-thirds of Oregon is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act and of Oregon state game laws.
The federal offense is punishable by up to a $100,000 fine, a year in jail, or both. The maximum state penalty is a fine of $6,250 and a year in jail.
In 2016, OR-33 roamed almost within Ashland's city limits and was seen by numerous residents, according to the Statesman Journal .
Wolves in Oregon hunt deer, elk, bighorn sheep and goats, but also can target livestock and are loathed by many livestock owners.
State wildlife officials say 141 livestock or domestic animals have been killed by wolves in Oregon since they began returning to the state in the late 1990s.
In 2016, wildlife officials estimated a minimum of 112 wolves lived in Oregon in 11 packs that included eight breeding pairs.