A Baker City, Ore., man who told state police and wildlife officials that he’d shot a wolf while hunting coyotes on private property has been charged with killing an endangered species.
Brennon D. Witty, 25, also was charged with hunting with a centerfire rifle without a big game tag, Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan said Monday. Both charges are Class A misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine. Witty will be arraigned Dec. 2 in Grant County Justice Court, Canyon City.
The shooting happened in Grant County; the neighboring Harney County DA handled it as a courtesy because his Grant County counterpart was acquainted with the hunter’s family and wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The incident happened Oct. 6, when Witty voluntarily notified ODFW and Oregon State Police that he’d shot a wolf while hunting coyotes on private property south of Prairie City. Police recovered a wolf’s body on the property.
Oregon’s action to remove wolves from the state endangered species list has no apparent bearing on the case. Wolves were listed under the state Endangered Species Act at the time of the shooting; the ODFW Commission on Nov. 9 removed wolves from the state list. Regardless, they remained on the federal endangered species list in the western two-thirds of the state.
The wolf was identified as OR-22, a male that has worn a GPS tracking collar since October 2013 and dispersed from the Umatilla Pack in February 2015. He was in Malheur County for awhile, then traveled into Grant County. Wildlife biologists don’t believe he had a mate of pups. Young or sub-dominant wolves often leave their home packs to establish their own territory and find mates.
OR-22 was the third Oregon wolf known to have died since August, when the Sled Springs pair in Northeast Oregon were found dead of unknown cause. The state now has a minimum of 82 wolves.