Press Release

ODFW Violated State Policy in Killing Ashland Bear Cub, According to Animal Wellness Action

The animals were all placed for adoption by the Bureau of Land Management’s adoption programs, which put federally protected equines at risk of slaughter

Sutherlin, Oregon – A review of ODFW’s administrative rules governing wildlife rehabilitation reveals that the agency violated those rules when it killed a young black bear cub rescued by a local fire chief outside Ashland on April 7th, according to a legal review by Animal Wellness Action.

Administrative rules setting terms and conditions for the rehabilitation of various wildlife species provide in pertinent part:

All black bear will be immediately transferred to the Department veterinary staff at the ODFW Wildlife Health Lab for health and behavior evaluations and placement in a Department-approved Association of Zoos and Aquarium accredited facility, approved black bear cub rehabilitation facility, or other disposition as determined by the Department.  (OAR 635-062-0025(2)(a)).

“Instead of following state law and delivering the cub to its own Wildlife Health Lab for a health and behavior evaluation, as the law explicitly demands, ODFW staff seized the cub and then executed the animal,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns for Animal Wellness Action and Center for A Humane Economy, and who lives in Sutherlin. “And to compound the damage, it then instructed the state police to issue a citation to a selfless and caring volunteer fire chief.

“The fire chief did everything right, while the ODFW staff, who broke the law and handled the situation without a shred of decency, gets to no consequences whatsoever,” added Beckstead.

Beckstead described the agency’s failure to abide by its own rules as further evidence in the case for fundamental reform. “When the agency won’t follow its own rules, and instead kills a young animal in need and comes down like a ton of bricks on a volunteer first responder who’s just trying to keep the public and wildlife safe, there’s something amiss. The leadership at ODFW needs to conduct an internal review, after immediately announcing the withdrawal of the citation with an apology to the fire chief..”

Beckstead said his organizations have issued a letter to ODFW Director Curt Melcher and ODFW Commission chair Mary Wahl, requesting that formal review of this incident, describing the violation of the agency’s rules, and highlighting the need to address mounting calls by lawmakers and changes in the culture of ODFW.

On April 7th, after receiving a call from concerned citizens about the bear frequenting Highway 66 near Ashland, Greensprings Fire Chief Gene Davies responded to the scene and located the bear. His requests for assistance from ODFW and OSP were unanswered, so he took the bear to his property while looking for suitable placement for the animal. An accredited and licensed large carnivore sanctuary near San Diego, California agreed to take the bear, and even began preparations to come to Oregon to transport it to their facility. The next day, however, ODFW and OSP arrived at Chief Davies’ property, seized the bear, and issued him a citation for holding wildlife without a permit, a misdemeanor. Then, in violation of the above-referenced rule, ODFW summarily killed the bear, providing in media accounts differing excuses for its decisions. In statements to media, the agency claims the bear was killed by shooting it.

Beckstead testified on April 13 before the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources to describe the events surrounding Chief Davies’ rescue attempt, and the decisions and actions of the two agencies. The includes Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), who represents the district where the incident occurred.

The Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) is a non-profit organization that focuses on influencing the conduct of corporations to forge a humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both.

Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.

The Animal Wellness Foundation (Foundation) is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.

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