A series of news stories are providing more details as well as commentary on the shooting of a wolf by an elk hunter in Northeast Oregon’s Starkey Wildlife Management Unit in late October.
Following last Thursday’s press release from the state police, first out was an Oregonianpiece on Saturday morning based on a troopers case report obtained by the paper.
Reporter Andrew Theen wrote that Brian Scott, 38, had three wolves in his vicinity and one “had targeted me … and was running at me to make contact,” according to the documents.
That article was followed the next day by an actual interview of Scott at his Clackamas home by freelance Oregonian outdoor writer Bill Monroe.
“It meant to make contact,” Scott told Monroe while pecking at his breakfast. “I was terrified. I screamed and raised my rifle. All I saw (in a scope) was hair so I shot.”
After confirming the animal was a wolf with his hunting partners, Scott contacted the Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who arrived with “forensic equipment, GPS units and a video camera; surveying the scene and evidence and taking Scott’s statement,” Monroe wrote.
OSP’s press release, which was also posted by ODFW, stated “The Union County District Attorney’s Office was consulted regarding the investigation and based upon the available evidence the case will not be prosecuted as this is believed to be an incidence of self–defense.”
In Theen’s Saturday article, a member of Oregon Wild questioned the path of the killing bullet, described as hitting the wolf’s right side and exiting on the left.
In a Monday story, Eric Mortenson of the Capital Pressinterviewed renowned retired Northern Rockies wolf expert Carter Niemeyer, who said he is in “doubt” about Scott’s story based on the wound channel which suggests a broadside shot.
Interviewed by Monroe, Scott said he couldn’t explain that as he had had other priorities in that moment in the woods.
“I screamed, raised the rifle and saw fur,” he told Monroe. “Who knows how it was moving in that split second? I don’t and was more interested in defending myself.”
It’s possible the bullet deflected off bone.
As with nearly every single bit of wolf news, this incident caused quite a stir on social media and in story comments.
It was always going to, as it was the first time an Oregon hunter has killed a wolf in what was classified as self defense (Washington’s first occurred in 2013 in the Pasayten Wilderness).
In the end, there are bits of wisdom worth gleaning.
Wolf attacks on humans remain very rare; wolf encounters with humans in the Northwest are increasing as wolf populations continue to increase; some of those are occurring at close range; we don’t all have the same comfort levels in terms of personal safety; we don’t all have the same experience with wolf behavior; and nobody can say with absolute certainty how every single wolf will act — they’re wild animals.
“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,” advised Roblyn Brown, ODFW acting wolf coordinator. “If you are carrying a firearm, you can fire a warning shot into the ground.”
“That would have been the first logical thing to do,” Niemeyer told Mortenson of the Press. “The gunshot and a yell from a human would turn every wolf I’ve ever known inside out trying to get away.”
Niemeyer also suggested carrying bear repellent, which Spokane Spokesman-Review outdoor columnist Rich Landers had in hand during a similar incident this summer with his dog and two wolves.
Landers wrote about that again in a Monday blog post, as well as offered this observation:
“The wilds won’t miss one wolf as the still-endangered species is multiplying beyond expectations in the Northwest. Meanwhile, the other two wolves likely learned a tad more fear of humans. That’s a recipe for success.”
I’ll second that, and for my part I’ll point out that somewhat underplayed in all of this was that Scott did the exact right thing to do: He immediately called OSP and ODFW to come investigate. That’s stand-up. That’s jumping from the frying pan into potentially a bonfire.
The results of that evidence collecting won’t ameliorate the hard-core wolfies, but what ever will.
For the rest of us outside the fringes, it yields several lessons, even as it put a pall on the hunting season of the man at the center of the story.
“People envision this jerk hunter out to kill anything, but that’s not me,” Scott told Monroe. “It frustrates me they don’t understand. I’m a meat hunter. I was looking for a spike elk. This wasn’t exciting. It ruined my hunt.”