A 38-year-old man hunting alone for elk in Oregon found himself fearing for his life when three wolves he originally believed to be coyotes surrounded him.
The man, hunting in Union County last Friday, told troopers he had noticed some type of animal moving around him and then noticed three, thinking they were coyotes, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife.
“He said at one point one of them began to run directly at him, while another made its way around him,” the ODFW said.
“The hunter stated he focused on the one running directly at him. 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 shared what happened with fellow hunters, who then returned to the scene to examine the animal. They concluded it was a wolf and, since it is unlawful to kill a wolf in Oregon except in self-defense, immediately called the ODFW and Oregon State Police.
Troopers from each agency responded and investigated the incident, determining the hunter was 27 yards from where the wolf had been when he shot. The Union County District Attorney’s Office concluded the hunter acted in self-defense so the hunter was not charged.
It marked the first time a wolf was killed in self-defense in Oregon since wolves repopulated the state in the 1990s.
The only other wolf incident in the state was in May 2016 when a sheepherder in Umatilla County legally shot and killed a member of the Walla Walla Pack when he caught it attacking livestock, according to The Oregonian.
An examination of the wolf by ODFW wildlife biologists determined it was an 83-pound female associated with the OR30 pair of wolves that are known to travel in Union and Umatilla counties.
“Dangerous encounters between wolves and people are rare, as are such encounters between people and cougars, bears and coyotes,” Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator, said in a statement.
“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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