SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon authorities say five wolves were found dead in northeastern Oregon in February. Oregon State Police said Friday when asked about it by The Associated Press that on Feb. 9, a collar on a wolf indicated a mortality signal in the Mt. Harris area in Union County. Police Capt. Timothy R. Fox said in an email that arriving officers found a total of five wolves dead. He says the cause of death is unknown. Fox says all the carcasses were taken to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife forensic lab to determine the cause of death. A state Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman said the incident is under investigation. No further information was released.
(CNN)An Oregon mink farm has reported an outbreak of coronavirus among mink and farmworkers.Ten mink samples submitted all came back positive for coronavirus, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) said in a news release on Friday. The farm has been placed under quarantine, meaning “no animal or animal product can leave the farm until further notice,” according to ODA.
10,000 mink are dead in Covid-19 outbreaks at US fur farms after virus believed spread by humansThe farmer and his staff have been advised to self-isolate after multiple coronavirus cases were reported among workers on the farm, the release said.”We have been engaged with the Oregon mink industry for some time, providing information on biosecurity to prevent the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 and were ready to respond,” ODA veterinarian Dr. Ryan Scholz said.Content by Voltaren Arthritis Pain GelChasing the Joy of MovementThis is how world champion cyclist Kristin Armstrong manages her osteoarthritis in a life of constant movement.Content by Voltaren Arthritis Pain GelChasing the Joy of MovementThis is how world champion cyclist Kristin Armstrong manages her osteoarthritis in a life of constant movement.”The farmer did the right thing by self-reporting symptoms very early and he is now cooperating with us and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) in taking care of his animals and staff. So far, we have no reports of mink mortalities linked to the virus but that could change as the virus progresses.”A public health veterinarian team is working with those affected by the outbreak by ensuring staff have personal protective equipment and the supplies needed to follow coronavirus guidance, according to OHA.close dialog
Coronavirus could drive the last nail into the mink fur tradeThis year, the virus was detected in mink in seven countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, and Spain, and three US states, Utah, Michigan, and Wisconsin, according to ODA.Thousands of mink have died at fur farms in Utah and Wisconsin after a series of coronavirus outbreaks. In Utah, ranchers have lost at least 8,000 mink to Covid-19.There is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in transmitting the virus to humans, according to the CDC and the US Department of Agriculture. The risk of animals spreading Covid-19 to humans is considered low.The USDA announces confirmed coronavirus cases in animals each time it is found in a new species. All confirmed cases in animals are posted on the department’s website.
You’ve seen the videos: armored police shooting objects into crowds in Portland, teargassing the city’s mayor and beating protesters who stand in the way of their tactical advances. But why are federal officers in Portland, and have they fueled violence as critics and city officials claim?
How did Portland become the epicenter of protests against police violence?
Portland had seen nearly 40 consecutive nights of protests against police violence and systemic racism after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, but city officials say the nightly demonstrations were dwindling when the Department of Homeland Security decided on July 4 to increase its presence around Portland’s federal courthouse.
On the night of July 3, a small group of people shattered a glass door at the federal building, which is within a block of both the Multnomah County Justice Center — home to a local jail — and a city police precinct, both of which had been earlier focuses of anti-police violence protests. Prosecutors later accused the group of attempting to set a fire.
The incident prompted the Department of Homeland Security to act on an executive order issued a week earlier by President Trump, authorizing the agency to prioritize enforcement against the “vandalism of government property.” In the weeks since, the federal presence — dubbed “Operation Diligent Valor” — has ballooned to include at least 114 federal officers not usually stationed at the courthouse.
As local officials decried the federal government’s dramatic response to vandalism, blaming it for reigniting protests, dozens have been arrested at the nightly demonstrations, and at least one man claims to have been pulled by unidentified federal agents into an unmarked minivan while walking blocks away. He said he was released without charges.
Dozens more protesters, journalists and federal agents have been injured — one protester holding a stereo over his head suffered a fractured skull after being shot by a U.S. Marshal in the head with a so-called less than lethal projectiles. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was among those tear-gassed, and in a viral video, Christopher David, a 53-year-old Navy veteran, was shown being beaten by federal officers. In court documents, federal officials said at least 28 officers have been injured.
Are Portland police and federal officers working together?
The Portland City Council on July 23 voted to bar city police from working with federal law enforcement. They had previously coordinated responses to the protests.
Who are the federal police stationed at the Portland courthouse?
Though courthouse protection is typically the purview of the Federal Protective Service and the U.S. Marshals, “Operation Diligent Valor” includes agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), according to a federal court declaration by Gabriel Russell, who is commanding the operation. The group includes members of an elite unit called the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, according to officials.
Why is Border Patrol allowed to patrol a Portland courthouse?
Portland, like most of the United States’ major cities, falls within the so-called “100-mile zone” that defines CBP’s jurisdiction, according to the University of Illinois Springfield professor Deborah Anthony, who has studied the agency’s expanding operations in that corridor. She said CBP is free to operate within 100 miles of any border or coastline, a swath of land that’s home to roughly two-thirds of the country’s population.
“It’s based on a statute from the 1940s that says border agents can search the border for aliens within a reasonable distance of the border or an external boundary. In 1953, a (Department of Justice) regulation determined that that was a hundred miles. Nobody seems to really know why they came up with a hundred miles, but that’s essentially been the rule ever since,” Anthony said.
At the time there were about 1,000 border agents nationwide, compared with roughly 21,000 today.
Can they really detain anyone inside the 100-mile zone?
No, Anthony said. “What they are supposed to be doing within that 100 miles is very limited. The charge of customs and border protection is facilitating trade customs and immigration law. And so they really are not supposed to be doing other types of operations, crime control, things like that, even within the 100 miles.”
She said the agency’s involvement in an operation like “Operation Diligent Valor” in Portland is unusual. “It’s the first I’m aware of because as far as I’m aware, it has nothing to do with immigration.”
Why is the attorney general sending federal officials to Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque?
While President Trump appeared to have conflated the two operations on July 20, they are not exactly the same. His executive order and the Portland operation are ultimately focused on enforcement of federal law, on federal property. Attorney General William Barr’s July 22 announcement pertained to officials with the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA, and ATF potentially assisting local police in the enforcement of local laws, with an effort toward curbing crime in those cities.
Only if they’re invited, according to Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane. “There’s no kind of overarching statutory authority for federal agencies, in general, to send federal officers to assist in local law enforcement,” Shane said. “If there is a request for federal help, the federal government can provide that help, but there has to be a request.”
Have the cities requested federal help?
No, the mayors of all three cities were among 14 to sign a letter condemning Homeland Security’s role in Portland, and the mayors of Albuquerque and Kansas City have explicitly said they are not asking for federal cooperation in local law enforcement. The U.S. Attorneys in both cities have said federal agents will be focused on violent federal crimes. Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, said federal agents will be allowed to “work in partnership” with Chicago detectives investigating gun homicides.
PORTLAND, Ore.— After a contentious 12-hour meeting, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected conservation proposals to adopt a uniform 24-hour trap check time for all wildlife and to ban beaver trapping on federally managed public lands.
The commission also voted 6-1 last Friday to continue the state’s existing furbearer trapping and hunting regulations for the next two years. Oregon’s trapping policies currently allow animals to languish in traps anywhere from 48 hours to 30 days, depending on how they are categorized by statute or rule.
“It’s troubling that the commission upheld Oregon’s cruel, outdated and wasteful trapping program for the benefit of just 1,000 licensed trappers in the entire state,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision is completely out of step with Oregonians’ changing wildlife values. It’s time to relegate trapping to the dustbin of Oregon’s history.”
While the commission declined to adopt the conservation proposals, they voted unanimously to direct agency staff to review trap-check time requirements and identify proposals for rule changes by January 2021. The commission also supported the concept of forming a beaver working group and indicated its intent to define the roles and responsibilities of such a group at its July meeting.
The Center and its conservation allies advocated for two proposals to reform Oregon’s trapping program. The first proposal asked the commission to close federally managed public lands to commercial and recreational beaver trapping and hunting. Beavers and their dam-building activities are crucial to restoring riparian ecosystems and reducing the harms of climate change, yet beavers are still widely trapped and hunted across the state.
The second proposal asked the commission to adopt a more humane and consistent approach to trap check times by adopting a 24-hour trap-check time for all categories of native wildlife. This state’s current approach, which can leave traps unchecked for days or even weeks, imposes arbitrary suffering on different animals and is out of step with the majority of states that have adopted a daily or 24-hour trap-check requirement.
Oregon’s furbearer regulations govern the trapping of furbearers for their hides and pelts and accompanying reporting requirements. Under Oregon law furbearers include such animals as bobcats, muskrats, river otters, beavers and raccoons.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The decision to euthanize a young humpback whale that washed ashore alive in Waldport this week was one agencies rarely have to make, but scientists say it was the right call.
The beached, 20-foot juvenile was reported early Wednesday morning north of the Alsea River and euthanized by injection on Thursday after rescue attempts failed.
Volunteers with the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network coordinated round-the-clock efforts to care for the whale. But after multiple high tides and several unsuccessful attempts to swim past the surf, the whale remained stranded.
A decision had to be made.
“They’re hard choices,” said Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. “I feel this one was appropriate.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ultimately made the call to euthanize the whale, but in consultation with people on the ground and other experts. They took a number of factors into consideration, including the animal’s age.
It is early in the season for a humpback that young to be fully weaned from its mother’s milk, Mate noted.
The mother may have died or been injured. Or, Mate theorized, food may have been so scarce the mother decided to wean it early. Either way, once the young whale was on the beach, the chance of reuniting it with its mother was unlikely.
“However it got separated from its mother, its chances of survival were remote even without this stranding event,” Mate said. “It was just way too young and small to make it on its own.”
On the beach, it was only suffering, he said.
Deep water supports large whales’ enormous weight. Stranded on land without that support, gravity begins to tear them apart, said Kristin Wilkinson, the Washington state and Oregon stranding coordinator for NOAA’s West Coast Regional Office.
Organs and circulatory systems can begin to collapse. Prolonged exposure can lead to blistered skin and hyperthermia.
Attempts to tow a whale back into water can injure or dislocate the tail or even paralyze the animal. Dredging around a whale to create a channel to deeper water can cause other environmental disruptions.
In 1979, Mate was on the scene after 41 sperm whales stranded on the beach in Florence. At the time, they were not allowed to euthanize the animals.
“If we could have, I would have,” Mate said. “There was no question. They stranded at the highest tide. They were never going to get back in the water and their death was a long and anguished one.”
It took upward of three days for most of the whales to die.
Mate and other researchers were poised to collect samples 20 minutes after each whale died to try to determine why the animals stranded in the first place.
But when they sent these freshly collected samples off for analysis, they were told, “These are tissue samples from an animal that’s been dead for three days.”
For the whales, everything had started to break down well before they finally died.
Since 2015, at least four large whales stranded alive onshore in the Pacific Northwest were able to free themselves, but all of them beached again and died, according to information compiled by NOAA in 2018. Last year, a large gray whale beached near Olympic National Park was able to refloat after several attempts.
Nationwide, an average of eight large whales have stranded alive in recent years. Most die within 24 hours of being stranded, even if they return to deeper water. Only about two a year are ever euthanized.
Each case is different. “It really just depends on the location, the animal’s overall condition, what resources are available, what trained staff are available. … It’s not a formula,” Wilkinson said.
Reports of marine mammal strandings in general are slightly lower in Oregon than in California or Washington state. Between 2007 and 2016, Oregon had a reported 3,776 strandings of dead and alive animals, most of them sea lions and seals. Whales accounted for only 1% of the stranded animals.
“Most of the time when we get a whale washed up, it’s either dead or almost dead,” said Chris Havel, associate director for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “Getting a young animal that was relatively healthy … that’s an unusual experience for us.”
“It’s a hard thing to witness,” he said.
The young humpback in Waldport had tried to swim past a sandbar into deep water during high tides on Wednesday and Thursday, but every time it oriented itself toward the ocean, it would get pushed back, according to Brittany Blades, the curator of mammals at Oregon Coast Aquarium, who stayed overnight to monitor the whale.
“As the night went on, the whale stranded further on shore due to the strong waves and extremely high tide,” Blades said in a statement.
The group gathered around the whale considered trying to move the whale closer to the water, but decided the plan wasn’t feasible. Given the amount of time the whale had already spent stranded on land, Blades said it was likely the internal organs had already “suffered irreparable damage that is not externally apparent.”
A Washington state veterinarian administered a series of injections to humanely euthanize the whale. The method NOAA follows involves first sedating the animal so it is fully asleep with needles that cause about as much pain as a vaccine shot.
Then, a veterinarian delivers potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Sometimes the whale reacts in these final moments, briefly raising its flippers or tail, a movement referred to as “the last swim.”
“This may be difficult to witness, but if euthanasia is being administered, qualified veterinarians have determined it is the most humane option for the whale,” Wilkinson notes in a fact sheet she compiled about large live whale strandings.
Scientists and researchers will perform a necropsy on the Waldport whale and collect samples. The whale will be buried on the beach near the site of the final stranding.
After years or revisions, scores of contentious meetings, an outside mediator and the abandonment of talks by half of the stakeholders, Oregon wildlife commissioners approved the state’s long-overdue Wolf Management Plan on Friday.
In a 6 to 1 vote, the 155-page plan, which governs how wolves are handled in the areas of the state where they don’t enjoy federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, was approved by the seven-member commission of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Before several hours of public testimony began, Commissioner Holly Akenson, who recounted her past experience studying wolves as a wildlife biologist, acknowledged the tension that surrounded the process, but noted the growth in Oregon’s wolf population and called the state’s previous management a success.
“We see a lot of concern on both sides of this plan,” she said. “For someone like me, who has looked forward to seeing wolves living free on our landscape, it’s time to celebrate.”
The state’s first wolf plan was issued in 2005, before any wolves had actually come back to the state after decades of extirpation due to hunting and trapping. Language in the original plan called for updates every five years and, in 2010, just a year after wolves had been confirmed in the northeast corner of Oregon, the second version of the plan was released. At the time, at least 21 of the canids were known to wander the state’s rural areas.
When it came time to update the plan for 2015, though, stakeholders on both sides — hunters and ranchers on one side, environmentalists and wolf advocates on the other — couldn’t come to a consensus on some of the most sensitive issues. Over the following years, facilitated meetings were held all over the state in an effort to find compromise between the two sides.
The talks grew so rancorous that, in January, the environmental groups pulled out of negotiations, calling the process “biased, superficial and unscientific.
Environmental groups pull out of talks to revamp Oregon’s wolf plan
The main sticking points in past negotiations have come over when and how lethal action can be taken against wolves that kill livestock.
Much of the tension surrounding the wolf plan boils down to when wolves can be killed, why and by whom. The latest revision has some key changes to the plan’s most controversial provisions.
Under the old plan, a wolf that attacked livestock twice or more over any period of time was deemed a “chronic depredator” and could be killed in the eastern third of the state, where wolves are managed by the state. The new plan will allow the state to kill wolves after two confirmed attacks during a nine month period.
State officials have stressed that when a wolf meets that threshold, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be killed. Non-lethal deterrents like fencing, alarm devices, hazing and removal of carcasses must be documented before a permit to kill a wolf can be issued. Even then, the state can exercise its own discretion, taking other factors into account before allowing a wolf to be killed.
“Discretion is more valuable than an actual number,” said Derek Broman, the state’s carnivore coordinator and one of the key architects of the plan. “When lethal action is taken, it’s not retribution.”
Once a wolf is deemed a chronic threat to livestock, however, the state can issue a permit for lethal action against the animal and, because staff and resources available to the state are limited, those permits can be issued to members of the public. That kind of action, called “controlled take,” was clarified in an amendment to the plan that said any permits issued to the public would require approval from the commission. Still, wolf advocates remained fiercely opposed to the provision, saying it could open the door to wolf hunts by the general public.
“With just 137 wolves in the state, it is absurd that ODFW would put hunting on the table,” Sristi Kamal, Northwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife, told commissioners. A spokesman for Rep. Peter DeFazio read a letter from the Oregon congressman that called for the provision allowing permitted hunting by the public, even under very specific circumstances, to be stripped from the plan.
Akenson responded that the commission would not issue permits lightly.
“This commission isn’t going to meet and say ‘Yep, let’s do it.’” she said. “It’s going to be a deliberative process.”
Numerous ranchers and hunters expressed concern over some aspects of the plan. Many said the state didn’t do enough to track wolves, particularly in Wallowa County, where the majority of wolves reside and most attacks on livestock take place. When a wolf is suspected of killing livestock, it must be confirmed by an investigation and many ranchers said it could take up to a week for investigators to show up, time when evidence can degrade and a confirmation becomes more difficult. Without a confirmation, ranchers aren’t eligible for compensation from the state.
“Ranchers get compensation for confirmed or probable kills,” Earl Nelson, a rancher from Douglas County, told the commission. “But the bar is set too high for kills to ever be counted.”
Others livestock producers said, given the continued growth of the wolf population, the state should establish “management zones,” defined geographic areas that would have a maximum number of wolves. Any wolves in the area beyond the maximum could be killed.
Though both sides found parts of the plan they disagreed with, many in the ranching community urged commissioners to adopt the plan as it was written, while environmental advocates pressed officials to revise the plan or remove the provisions they found most troubling.
After public comment concluded, Commissioner Gregory Wolley, the sole “no” vote, acknowledged the divide in the room.
“We have one side that seems to support the plan despite its imperfections, while the other side is 100 percent against it,” he said. “We say we’re trying to go down the middle, but that doesn’t sound like a compromise.”
Friday’s commission meeting came against the backdrop of a push from federal regulators to strip the wolf of protections under the Endangered Species Act. That plan, like Oregon’s plan but on a larger scale, has been met with condemnation from advocates and scientists, but was welcomed by hunters and ranching industry groups.
SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Oregon wildlife commissioners have approved the state’s long-overdue Wolf Management Plan after years of revisions, contentious meetings, an outside mediator and half the stakeholders abandoning talks.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the plan to govern how wolves are handled in areas of the state where they don’t enjoy federal protection under the Endangered Species Act was approved Friday by the commission of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The state’s first wolf plan was issued in 2005, before any wolves had come back to the state after decades of extirpation due to hunting and trapping. The second version of the plan came out in 2010, a year after wolves had been confirmed in Oregon.
The plan finally approved Friday came after hunters and ranchers, and environmentalists and wolf advocates squared off over when wolves can be killed, why and by whom.
News release from ODFW:
Commission adopts revised Wolf Plan in 6-1 vote
SALEM, Ore.—The Commission adopted a Wolf Plan today at its meeting in Salem in a 6-1 vote after hearing from 44 people who came to testify and reviewing thousands of public comments.
Allowing controlled take (limited regulated hunting and trapping of wolves) was one of the most controversial topics in the new Wolf Plan. The original Plan adopted in 2005 allowed for controlled take only in Phase 3 (currently eastern Oregon), in instances of recurring depredations or when wolves are a major cause of ungulate populations not meeting established management objectives or herd management goals. While ODFW believed it needed to remain a tool available for wolf management, the department has not proposed any controlled take of wolves and has no plans to at this time.
Commissioners made some changes related to “controlled take” from the proposed Plan. An addendum was added clearly stating that “Use of controlled take as a management tool requires Commission approval through a separate public rulemaking process” and the definition of controlled take was modified.
Additional minor changes were made to emphasize the importance of non-lethal tools to address wolf-livestock conflict and easy access to this information. Non-lethal measures to prevent wolf-livestock conflict continue to be emphasized in all phases of the Plan, and required before any lethal control is considered.
After some discussion, Commissioners revised the definition of chronic depredation (which can lead to lethal control of wolves if non-lethals are in use and not working) in Phase 2 and 3 from two confirmed depredations with no specific time frame to two confirmed depredations in nine months.
The Wolf Plan will be filed with the Secretary of State and posted on the ODFW Wolves webpage (www.odfw.com/wolves) within the next few business days.
In other business over the two-day meeting June 6-7, the Commission also:
·Allocated big game auction and raffle tags for 2020.
·Heard a briefing on the crab fishery and reducing the risk of whale entanglements.
·Adopted harvest limits for Pacific sardine in state waters for July 2019-June 2020 based on federal regulations.
·Approved funding for Access and Habitat projects that provide hunting access or improve wildlife habitat on private land.
Double-crested cormorants nesting on the Astoria Bridge could come with a high cost to the state and more frequent maintenance interruptions for motorists.
The birds, seasonal visitors to the North Coast, have just begun to return to the estuary for breeding and nesting. No one knows how many will decide to settle on the bridge this year, but it was clearly a popular spot last year, as birds from the region’s largest colony continued to be hazed off East Sand Island downriver.
The number of double-crested cormorants nesting on the bridge jumped from a dozen pairs in 2004 to around 1,700 pairs last year, according to monitoring reports cited by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The leaps coincide with the beginning of lethal management of a massive double-crested cormorant colony on East Sand Island. The birds abandoned the island several times after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began shooting thousands of adult birds and destroying nests and eggs in 2015 to protect runs of young salmon.
The Audubon Society of Portland called a mass exodus in 2017 a “catastrophic collapse.”
Fish and wildlife researchers have since questioned the value of cormorant management in saving salmon. They say it was clear after each dispersal that cormorants were resettling on the bridge and farther upriver — areas where they could potentially impact even more salmon.
Cormorant droppings have accumulated on the bridge in layers so thick they have made it difficult for state inspectors to evaluate the structure. The droppings are also very corrosive, reducing the life span of the bridge’s protective steel coating.
“The potential expense we’re facing is a real worry to us,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Lou Torres.
The state repaints the Astoria Bridge every 20 years, a lengthy but necessary maintenance that has shut down lanes during busy summer months.
Work on the span only just concluded in 2018 and more work is planned in 2021 on the under truss, where many of the cormorants appear to nest.
“We’re really trying to get prepared for that,” Torres said.
He estimates it could cost around $80,000 to pressure-wash the bridge to complete required inspections. But that cost could quickly increase to $6 million if environmental agencies require the state to set up containment structures during pressure washing so bird waste does not simply get pushed into the Columbia River.
If cormorants continue to nest on the bridge in such high numbers, the state may also have to paint the bridge more often, every 15 years as opposed to every 20.
Under that scenario, Torres said, “We’re not going to have a lot of years where we’re not painting.”
Either way, the Department of Transportation is weighing its options as 2021 approaches. The department anticipates it will need to begin a hazing program to dissuade cormorants from nesting on the bridge. How to remove them is still an open question.
Several years ago, the state hired a company that set up noise cannons on the Interstate 5 Columbia River Bridge in Portland to disturb thousands of starlings that had colonized the bridge and whose accumulated droppings on the bridge, catwalks and roadways posed health and safety hazards.
The Army Corps does not link the movement of double-crested cormorants farther upriver to management actions on East Sand Island. The agency blamed attacks by eagles for the birds’ departures in 2016 and 2017.
Army Corps spokesman Jeff Henon suggested the birds may not have nested in large numbers on the bridge before because of the billowing containment structures that were around in 2014 during painting and maintenance. When the state moved on to other portions of the bridge and the containment structures were no longer necessary, the birds moved in.
But Torres noted that the bulk of that work was not in areas where birds usually nested and, besides, the number of nesting birds on the bridge during the spring and summer climbed steadily between 2012 and 2018.
“The numbers tell the story there,” he said.
The Army Corps did not shoot any adult birds last year, but did destroy eggs. This year, the agency plans to modify the island’s terrain, creating intertidal wetlands and further reducing nesting habitat to keep double-crested cormorants at the lower levels identified in a federal management plan.
But it’s not as though the cormorants’ relocation onto the Astoria Bridge and deeper into the estuary should have been a surprise.
Studies funded by the Army Corps before management of the cormorants even began indicated it was likely some of the birds would move into the estuary if they were hazed off East Sand Island.
Feasting on salmon
Though further investigation is needed, available evidence suggests the cormorants that have been nesting upriver only recently immigrated from somewhere else — their most likely origin being East Sand Island, said James Lawonn, avian predation biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Past research on Caspian terns, also seasonal inhabitants of East Sand Island managed by the Army Corps, indicates birds that nest farther up in the estuary eat even more salmon than those nesting near the river’s mouth, where more types of food are available. It’s possible cormorants that nest upriver could eat three times more young salmon.
Now the state and other partners are looking into the impact of new cormorant colonies in the estuary on the survival of young salmon.
To Lawonn, how many cormorants are using the Astoria Bridge is a major piece of the puzzle.
One evening at the end of March, Lawonn set up a scope near the Port of Astoria’s West Mooring Basin near the bridge.
He wasn’t sure how many cormorants he would even see. It was still early in the season.
Double-crested cormorants appear inclined to return to nesting grounds where they have experienced success, but they also aren’t afraid to quest elsewhere for better options if they are running into trouble.
He wondered if birds that found safe and suitable nesting on the bridge would choose it first over East Sand Island, bypassing habitat where they had been hazed and shot at by humans and harried by eagles for the past several years.
The Army Corps will not begin monitoring East Sand Island for double-crested cormorants and nesting activity until the end of April or beginning of May.
Even as Lawonn trained his scope down the bridge’s length, the dark, snaking forms of cormorants on support structures at the base of the bridge caught the sinking sunlight and gleamed.
Lawonn counted over 650 double-crested cormorants that evening. A few days later, he counted 943.
A bill to ban coyote-hunting contests in Oregon has reignited conflict between conservationists and ranchers.
The battle dates back decades. Conservationists say mass coyote killings throw off ecosystem balance and violate hunting ethics. Ranchers say exterminating the predators is an act of preservation because coyotes attack their livestock.
The contests received renewed scrutiny this year after an undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States in January showed hunters at a competition in Burns, Ore., piling dozens of dead and bloody coyotes into the beds of pickup trucks.
So state lawmakers aimed to put a stop to such contests. Sens. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) and Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) sponsored Senate Bill 723, which would outlaw “organizing, sponsoring, promoting, conducting or participating in contest, competition, tournament or derby that has objective of taking wildlife for prizes or other inducement or for entertainment.”
But that last clause—entertainment—has created an unexpected roadblock for the bill.
“Just because someone doesn’t like something,” association legislative chairman Paul Donheffner says, “doesn’t mean it can be prohibited.”
Donheffner’s legal argument is straightforward: The bill doesn’t ban coyote hunting, or even limit it. It merely outlaws contests for entertainment.
And Oregon’s free speech laws offer broad protection for entertainment—thanks to a court ruling that protects strip clubs and adult video stores.
In 1987, in the case of State v. Henry, the Oregon Supreme Court decided under Article 1 Section 8 of the state constitution that state law could not criminalize forms of entertainment deemed socially unacceptable. That ruling enshrined legal protections for nudity at strip clubs in Oregon.
Lake Perriguey, a Portland lawyer with expertise in constitutional law, says, “Oregon’s constitution limits what the government can regulate.”
He adds: “The broad language has been interpreted to mean things people find unsavory. That’s why you can have a porn shop across the street from an elementary school.”
Several lawmakers are trying to change the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, is offering an amendment that removes the word “entertainment” from the bill’s language.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) penned her own amendment, which would change the penalty of participating in a wildlife-killing contest from a misdemeanor to a violation.
Portland conservation group Oregon Wild supports SB 723. Arran Robertson, the group’s communication manager, says, “Killing derbies go against what the vast majority of the hunting community considers to be fair. They’re cruel and unnecessary.”
Legislative testimony—signed by the Humane Society, Oregon Wild and 14 other statewide conservation groups—adds another argument: “Persecution of coyotes disrupts their social structure, which, ironically, encourages more breeding and migration, and ultimately results in more coyotes.”
But the bill applies only to contests. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations say it’s legal to hunt and kill coyotes year-round with an appropriate furtaker’s license.
Donheffner says there are over 25 Oregon Hunters Association chapters with more than 10,000 members statewide and that coyote-hunting contests have been their tradition for “years and years.”
“It’s nothing like the mass murder that’s been described,” Donheffner says, referring to the Humane Society videos.
Ranchers say the contests help them make ends meet. “I’ve had tough times when work was slow or I was injured and unable to work,” wrote Seth Franklin, a rancher in Harney County who opposes the bill, in Senate testimony. “But one thing that’s kept me afloat time and time again is fur, particularly coyotes.”