On December 18, 2017, an Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Trooper was inspecting a trap line near Elgin, OR, when he located a deceased wolf adjacent to one of the foothold traps. Upon inspection, it was determined that the wolf had more than likely been shot after having been caught in the foothold trap.

The trooper initiated an investigation, including an x-ray examination and necropsy of the deceased wolf, which revealed a small caliber bullet retrieved from the wolf’s spinal column. Throughout the investigation, a suspect was developed and following an interview, the individual admitted to killing the wolf after finding it caught in one of his traps. The investigation also determined that the trapper was utilizing traps, which were not branded or marked with the trapper’s information, as required by law.

Following the investigation, David M Sanders (Jr), age 58, of Elgin, was cited to appear for Unlawful Taking of Wildlife — Unbranded Traps and Unlawful Taking of Wildlife — Special Status Game Animal (both misdemeanors). Sanders was arraigned in Union County Circuit Court on January 23, 2018, where the case is still pending.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) assisted with the identification of the wolf and also collected DNA samples for further testing. According to ODFW, the wolf killed was a 63.5 pound juvenile female born in April 2017. Based on its location, ODFW believes it was the offspring of a new pair of wolves that bred this year in the Mt. Emily Wildlife Management Unit, but is awaiting DNA results to confirm this. (More information about this new pack will be available in March, when ODFW releases its annual wolf report.)

ODFW reminds all trappers to immediately contact OSP or their nearest ODFW field office if they find a wolf caught in a trap. Four wolves are known to have been inadvertently caught by licensed trappers since wolves began returning to Oregon in the late 2000s, but in all these known cases, the trapper contacted ODFW. Wildlife biologists were able to respond and then collar and safely release the wolf from the trap.