An alliance of conservation groups is asking Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to reopen the state’s investigation into the killing of a female wolf Oct. 27 in Union County.
Brian Scott, a 38-year-old elk hunter from Clackamas, shot the wolf after he claims the animal charged him, though critics argue that photos released by Oregon State Police directly contradict that story.
The groups — 18 in all — sent a letter Thursday to Brown requesting that OSP reopen the case, with independent oversight from the Office of the Attorney General and full cooperation from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
“Enforcement of Oregon’s wildlife laws is crucial to deter criminals and to protect our state’s most vulnerable species,” the letter reads. “A failure to hold OSP accountable in this case could set a dangerous precedent and send a message that Oregon will look the other way when it comes to illegally killing wolves and other wildlife.”
A spokesman for the governor’s office did not return calls by press time.
In a recent interview with the Capital Press Scott said he screamed when he saw the wolf charging him, pulled up his rifle and fired a single shot. The 83-pound female was associated with the OR-30 pair of wolves occupying the Starkey and Ukiah wildlife management units, straddling Umatilla and Union counties.
Scott said he feared for his life, and felt he would have been mauled had he not shot.
“I take no pride in this at all,” Scott said. “The only thing I’m happy about is I made it home to my wife and two children.”
However, as the groups point out, photos show the bullet passed through the wolf’s shoulders, an indication that maybe the animal was standing broadside to Scott rather than running directly at him. The evidence “casts serious doubt on both the hunter’s story and OSP’s interpretation of the evidence,” the letter states.
The Union County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Scott, chalking up the incident to self-defense. It is illegal to kill wolves in Oregon except in defense of human life or to protect livestock under a specific set of circumstances.
“Self-defense claims are difficult to substantiate in cases like this,” the letter goes on. “We are not questioning that the hunter may have felt fearful. We are, however, questioning his story that he shot the wolf while it was running toward him. We are questioning OSP’s official report of the incident, which corroborated the hunter’s story even though the evidence suggested otherwise. And we are questioning the Union County District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute.”
Scott told the Capital Press he cannot explain the bullet’s trajectory, and does not know if the animal veered sideways as he shot. He said the moment makes him almost nauseous, and it will be something he has to live with the rest of his life.
Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild, said the physical evidence raises a red flag, and he does not want to see self-defense become a “get out of jail free card” for potential poachers.
“It’s irresponsible of ODFW and OSP to let this stand, if the physical evidence contradicts it,” Pedery said.
In addition to Oregon Wild, groups that signed on to the letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Endangered Species Coalition, among others.