PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The wolf shot to death by an elk hunter in northern Malheur County on Nov. 2 was the ninth wolf killed in Oregon in 2023 and the second allegedly killed in self-defense since the species repopulated the state in the 1990s, wildlife officials say.

The 70-pound female was killed after she allegedly moved dangerously close to the hunter in a remote area owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Michelle Dennehy told KOIN 6 News that another elk hunter killed a wolf in Union County in 2017 under similar circumstances.

“Thankfully, there has never been an incident of a wolf actually attacking a person in Oregon or in other Rocky Mountain states like Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, to my knowledge,” Dennehy said. “Such attacks are very rare. The few that occurred were in Alaska or Canada and may have involved wolves being fed or rabid. As with other wildlife — bears, cougars, even deer and elk — feeding wolves can make them lose natural fear of people.”

Eight other wolves have been killed in Oregon in 2023 for repeatedly preying on livestock, officials say. In 2022, officials recorded 17 cases of humans killing wolves across the state.

“Eight wolves were lethally removed after they were involved in chronic livestock depredation despite non-lethal measures in place,” Dennehy said. “ODFW issues permits for landowners or agents to remove wolves under these circumstances.”

While permits were provided for the eight depredation killings recorded this year, the wolf killed on Nov. 2 was shot without permission after it allegedly caused the hunter to fear for his life. According to the hunter’s account, he fired upon the wolf from 18 yards away after it continued to draw closer despite his attempts to scare it off.

“The elk hunter was tracking elk on a ridge when a wolf came out from the timber in front of him,” the ODFW said. “The hunter stated he yelled at the wolf and waved his arms in an effort to scare the wolf away. The wolf then reportedly looked at the hunter from a distance of approximately 30 yards and started coming directly toward the hunter. The hunter stated he feared for his safety and fired one round, striking the wolf and killing it instantly.”

Following the initial shooting, a second wolf emerged from the woods and scattered after the hunter fired a warning shot, he told authorities. Officials described the dead wolf as being white or gray in color. The wolf was not part of a known breeding pair.

While the Nov. 2 shooting remains under investigation, ODFW officials said that the hunter may have acted reasonably by killing the wolf in self-defense. The man was also credited for following state guidelines by contacting officials immediately after the shooting occurred. 

Oregon State Police told KOIN 6 News that the wolf killed on Nov. 2 did not have a tracking collar. However, due to its location, the wolf is believed to have been part of the Logan Valley Pack, a growing population known to roam Grant County.

The ODFW offers hunters the following tips for wolf encounters:

Hunters should report wolf sightings, signs or activity online at ODFW’s wolf website.

Wolves are protected throughout Oregon. It is not legal to shoot one, except in defense of human life. Report any incident with a wolf to the police or ODFW (541) 963-2138.

Conflicts between wolves and people are more likely to occur when wolves are habituated to people, infected with rabies, or when domestic dogs are present.

Wolves and hunting dogs: Reducing conflict

Wolves are by nature extremely territorial and guard their territory from other canids, including coyotes and domestic dogs. Hunters who use dogs should take steps to limit potential conflicts between their dog(s) and a wild wolf.

  • Keep dogs within view
  • Place a bell or a beeping collar on wider-ranging dogs
  • Talk loudly to the dog or other hunters or use whistles
  • Control the dog so that it stays close to you and wolves associate it with a human
  • Place the dog on a leash if wolves or fresh signs are seen
  • Remember: It is NOT legal to shoot at or attempt to injure or kill a wolf even if it is attacking your dog

Wolves vs. Coyotes

Wolves and coyotes can look similar, especially wolf pups in the mid-summer and fall. Use this graphic to distinguish between wolves and coyotes.