As spring takes bloom throughout Oregon, we want to take a moment and talk about one of the many serious issues affecting our state's wildlife.
Poaching is the illegal killing or capturing of animals, and with so many opportunities and wild spaces, Oregon struggles to enforce and deter poaching. Since 2012, Oregon State Police (OSP) have averaged 764 poaching investigations a year, most involving elk or deer. While poaching affects all of Oregon's habitats, central Oregon struggles the most due to vast amounts of land and limited officer resources. Why poaching happens is a complex issue, but is often linked to trophy-taking or impulsive acts. In 2017, 25 elk were left wasting on private property in Wallowa County in what was described by OSP as a single poaching incident.
Poaching threatens sustainability. Mule deer are one of Oregon’s premier big game species and along with elk, one of our most poached animals. They've also been in decline since the 1960s. A six-year study by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in central Oregon, found that poaching was responsible for 20% of the region’s mule deer deaths - many more than the number taken by permit during the same period. 80% of these illegal kills were does, which represents a serious threat to the future of our mule deer population.
Poaching hurts protected species. In spring of 2017, bald eagle carcasses were found throughout Oregon, each stripped of their talons. Last April, a radio-collared wolf was caught in a trap near a rancher’s property; the poacher removed its head to ditch the collar and avoid being caught.
[Left to right: K9 wildlife detection team investigates poached bear; OSP discover illegally killed carcass; OSP observes poaching evidence. All images above courtesy of OSP]
Meet Buck: Oregon's first wildlife detection dog. We have partnered with OSP to launch a first-of-its-kind in Oregon, wildlife K9 detection team . Wildlife K9 teams are trained to detect firearms and associated odors, find illegally-taken wildlife and related evidence, assist in the arrest of suspects, and perform valuable demonstrations and educational programs about poaching. This initial K9 team is based in Springfield with plans to expand the program to every region of the state as resources become available. Not just a cute face, Buck and his handler, are a key part of OSP's strategy to effectively take on Oregon's poaching issues. It's estimated that a wildlife K9 team can save up to 800 personnel hours a year in the enforcement and prosecution of poaching crimes.
You can help us fight poaching. At Oregon Wildlife Foundation we want to bring detection K9 teams, to every region of our state - but we can’t get projects like this funded without the support of people like you. Please take a moment right now and join us in helping conserve Oregon’s wildlife!