A $50,000 reward is available for any information that leads to an arrest in the deaths of three endangered gray wolves in Oregon, officials announced.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement Friday that the three wolves were found east of the rural community of Bly in southern Oregon last year.
On Dec. 29 the digital collars worn by two wolves sent a mortality signal, the service said. State Police Fish and Wildlife Division troopers found the two wolves, along with one more that wasn't wearing a collar, all of them dead.
The collared wolves — one of them a breeding-age female, the other an adolescent — were from what researchers have called the Gearhart Mountain Pack.
The service said they died in an area of wolf activity stretching from Klamath to Lake counties. Details on how they died weren't released.
Gray wolves, the largest members of the Canidae family, which includes dogs and coyotes, are listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Oregon.
Once seen across the continental U.S., the gray wolf was diminished dramatically through predator-control programs in the 1900s. In 1978 they were reclassified as endangered throughout the U.S. and Mexico.
Protecting wolves remains a controversial and politically charged topic.
President Donald Trump's administration ended the wolves' protections nationally in 2021, and management is now handled by the states.
In December, five gray wolves were released in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains as part of a voter-approved reintroduction program. While much of the state’s mostly Democratic-voting urban population supported the move, it was strongly opposed in conservative rural areas where farmers and ranchers worry about the safety of livestock.