Proposal to Kill Hundreds of Ravens in Baker County Cancelled for 2020

This morning we got great news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have cancelled a proposal to kill hundreds of ravens in Baker County in Northeastern Oregon. Bird Alliance of Oregon has led a coalition of groups opposed to this proposal. 

The agencies argued that killing ravens was necessary to protect declining Greater Sage-Grouse populations in Baker County. While we are deeply concerned about sage-grouse declines in Baker County, the proposal was inhumane and not supported by science. The environmental assessment put forward by the agencies included no data demonstrating that ravens were actually predating in sage grouse nests, would have left hundreds of eggs baited with poison scattered across the landscape, and would have left nestling ravens whose parents were poisoned to starve in their nests. The proposal also ignored significant causes of sage-grouse decline in Baker County such as an off-road vehicle area that was developed in core sage-grouse habitat. 

A photo of a Common Raven standing on the ground. Its body is facing the camera and its head is turned to the side.
Common Raven, by Audrey Addison

“This is a good day for science and for wildlife,” said Bird Alliance of Oregon Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger.  “Sage-grouse declines do need to be addressed but this was a classic case of scapegoating one species for the decline of another while ignoring far more obvious threats.”

In conveying the decision to cancel the proposed killing in 2020, ODFW cited many of the issues raised by Bird Alliance of Oregon and its allies. The agency acknowledged that more science and research was needed, non-lethal strategies should get additional consideration, and that they agreed with Bird Alliance of Oregon et al. that leaving young ravens to starve in nests was not acceptable. The agencies will take another year to conduct research on the impacts of ravens on sage-grouse in Baker County and to consider a broader suite of strategies to address sage-grouse recovery. It is possible that they will return in future years with a revised proposal for killing ravens, but for 2020, the killing that was supposed to begin in the coming months is no longer moving forward. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with the agencies to develop humane, ecologically responsible strategies that truly address the primary causes of sage-grouse declines.