As It Happens

Conservationist worried about copycats as wolf poisonings in Oregon go unsolved

After eight gray wolves were killed by poison in Oregon over the span of several months, conservationist Brooks Fahy says he’s worried there’s more slaughter to come.

Police continue to investigate who killed the wolves earlier this year

A wolf in Yellowstone National Park. In 1995, park officials began a project to reintroduce wolves to the area, some of the descendants of which eventually moved on to Oregon. Eight of those wolves have been killed by poison in that state this year. (NPS)

Story Transcript

After eight gray wolves were killed by poison in Oregon over the span of several months this year, conservationist Brooks Fahy says he's worried there's more slaughter to come. 

"We're afraid that if there isn't a successful prosecution of this case … copycats will become emboldened and there will be more poisonings," Fahy, who is the executive director of nonprofit Predator Defense, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

A pack of five wolves were discovered dead in February, followed by three others over the course of the spring and summer — a loss Fahy describes as a "serious hit" to the state's population of about 170. 

Though police in Oregon have remained tight-lipped about the details of their investigation, he believes "anti-wolf sentiment" in the Western U.S. is to blame, particularly among ranchers. 

"What's driving it, they say, is predation on livestock," said Fahy, who believes the issue is overblown.

"Predation on livestock is miniscule; it's under one percent." 

Brooks Fahy has been concerned about wolf killings — and specifically wolf poisonings — for a long time. In this 2004 shot, he's putting up a flyer looking for tips on wolf poisonings in Idaho. (Submitted by Brooks Fahy)

Wolves have proven to be a larger political issue in recent years.

In 2020, the Trump administration removed the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act, something Fahy says he and other environmentalists have been working "feverishly" to restore. 

Some states have also passed legislation setting targets to dramatically reduce their wolf populations, including in Idaho, where the stated goal is to kill 90 per cent of wolves in order to protect agricultural interests. 

"There's an anti-government sentiment attached to this, too," continued Fahy. 

"Some individuals feel that the wolf represents the conservation and environmental community, and they resent that." 

With the investigation into the poisonings ongoing, a reward of about $43,000 US (around $53,000 Cdn) has been amassed by several conservation groups for information that leads to a break in the case. 

Fahy says the police seem to be conducting a thorough examination — though he remains deeply concerned about what he sees as a "serious, serious problem" in his state. 

"We brought back wolves so they could be slaughtered all over again," said Fahy. "That appears to be what's happening."

Written by Kate McGillivray. Interview produced by Chris Trowbridge.


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