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Hunter shoots and kills wolf in self-defense, a first since predator returned to Oregon

Investigators believe the wolf was associated with the "OR 30 pair," a group with a known area of activity in Umatilla and Union counties in northeastern Oregon. (ODFW)

LA GRANDE, Ore. - A hunter shot and killed a wolf in self-defense last week, the first time that has happened since the endangered predator returned to the state in the 1990s, Oregon State Police said Thursday.

The 38-year-old elk hunter from Clackamas reporting shooting the wolf in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit of Union County in northeastern Oregon on Friday, October 27, 2017.

A state trooper and a biologist from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated.

The hunter "told the trooper he had been hunting elk alone, when he repeatedly noticed some type of animal moving around him. A short time later, the hunter observed three of what he assumed would be coyotes. He said at one point one of them began to run directly at him, while another made its way around him," according to state police.

"The hunter stated he focused on the one running directly at him," according to police. "He began to scream at it, and fearing for his life shot it one time. He said what he still believed to be a coyote died from the single shot. He stated that after the shot the other two disappeared out of sight."

The hunter returned to camp and told his fellow hunters what had happened.

Uncertain if what he had shot was a coyote, the hunter told police he returned to the site and changed his mind: the animal was a wolf.

That's when he called state police and wildlife officials.

The police investigation determined the hunter was 27 yards away from the wolf when he fired the shot.

The wolf carcass was seized and turned over to state wildlife biologists.

It's against the law to kill a wolf in Oregon - except in defense of human life, state police said.

In consultation with the local district attorney, state police determined the hunter acted in self-defense.

"This incident marks the first time that a wolf has been reported shot in self-defense in Oregon since they began returning to the state in the late 1990s," police said.

The wolf was an 83-pound female associated with OR-30 and wolves living in Union and Umatilla counties in northeastern Oregon.

"Initial examination does not indicate that the wolf was a breeding female, but the wolf's DNA will be analyzed to confirm this," police said in a report.

"Dangerous encounters between wolves and people are rare, as are such encounters between people and cougars, bears and coyotes," said Roblyn Brown, the acting Wolf Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "They will usually avoid humans and leave the area when they see, hear, or smell people close by. If you see a wolf or any other animal and are concerned about your safety, make sure it knows you are nearby by talking or yelling to alert it to your presence. If you are carrying a firearm, you can fire a warning shot into the ground."

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