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Wildlife Integrity

In response to concerns from the public, enforcement officers and ODFW staff about potential hazards that nonnative species can present to native wildlife, the Commission directed staff to draft administrative rules which address these concerns. In 1993, the Commission took a major step towards protection of Oregon's wildlife by adopting administrative rules regulating the importation, breeding, holding and sale of cervids (members of the deer Family). This action will help prevent disease transmission and genetic pollution of native wild herds. Rules pertaining to cervids are addressed in OAR 635, Division 49 and are therefore not part of this paper or proposed rules.

Upon the adoption of the Cervid Rules, the Commission directed staff to draft rules relative to other nonnative species. A Wildlife Integrity Task Group (Task Group) was appointed to assist the Department as it developed draft administrative rules. The Task Group is comprised of representatives of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, veterinarians, wildlife biologists, wildlife breeders, the pet trade industry, conservation organizations, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, Oregon State Police, Oregon Health Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon Farm Bureau, the Humane Society, and exotic species clubs. It met six times between 1994 and 1996.

The Task Group provided information to the Department about nonnative species and brought forward concerns of the groups and agencies they represent. They reviewed rules of other states as well as scientific and popular literature on this subject. The Task Group also made recommendations as to how the Department could address potential problems.

The Task Group recommended that nonnative species be categorized based on their potential to harm native wildlife. Three categories were recommended: Prohibited, Controlled and Noncontrolled. Species or groups of species were placed in one of these categories by the Task Group. Criteria used to determine which category a species was put into included their potential for:

  1. Introduction of disease or parasites to native wildlife,
  2. Interbreeding (hybridization) with native wildlife,
  3. Competition for habitat with native wildlife,
  4. Degradation of habitat of native wildlife, and/or
  5. Predation on native wildlife.

The lists of species that fell into the Prohibited and Noncontrolled categories are under Division 056 OAR (pdf) The Task Group recommended that a process be established for classification of other nonnative species. Specifically, the Task Group recommended that the Director appoint a special panel to review information on other species not classified as Prohibited, Controlled or Noncontrolled and that the panel recommend species classifications to the Commission. Under such a process, anyone wishing to import a nonnative species not previously listed as Prohibited, Controlled or Noncontrolled would be required to provide the panel with information regarding the species, subspecies or hybrid in question and the potential impacts to native wildlife and habitats. The information should be scientific in nature, written form and include an appropriate literature cited section.

These rules, however, contain protocol and a process allowing the department's director to classify species that qualify under the Noncontrolled category. This would not be a rulemaking process. Species not qualifying as Noncontrolled could undergo review by the Wildlife Integrity Review Panel and would undergo rulemaking by the Commission.

Concern was expressed during the public review process about the time it may take for a review panel to evaluate, and subsequently for the Commission to make a ruling on species' classification requests (particularly for those species which pose little or no threat to native species or habitat). Therefore, it is proposed that protocol be established in these rules which would allow the Director to make a classification for species qualifying under the Noncontrolled category. This would not be a rule-making process. Species not qualifying as Noncontrolled would undergo review by the Wildlife Integrity Review Panel and rulemaking by the Commission. The protocol for classification of species as Noncontrolled by the ODFW Director is on pages 20 and 21 of the written Summary.

Many of the species on the Domestic or Otherwise Exempt Animal list were proposed by the Task Group. They are excluded from these rules because they are considered domestic animals or otherwise the jurisdiction of another agency (e.g., Oregon Department of Agriculture). They are not subject to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission's jurisdiction.

The title of this section, ("Domestic") is too limited. The addition of the phrase, "or Otherwise Exempt" conveys more accurately the intent of the list. Please refer to the Summary.

DIVISION 056: Importation, Possession, Confinement, Transportation and Sale of Nonnative Wildlife


Nonnative, introduced species (sometimes called "exotics") which are brought into Oregon for a variety of reasons are a major concern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The reasons are numerous, but include the following potential problems:

  • competition with native fish and wildlife species for food, cover and space,
  • spread of diseases to native populations,
  • destruction of the habitat of native species,
  • predation (eating) on the eggs, young or even adults of native wildlife, and
  • breeding with native species, affecting population genetics and the ability of a native species to compete and survive.

In Oregon, at least 96 introduced fish and wildlife species are known to occur. Sixty-five percent (62 species) have become established in the wild and are believed or known to exist as self-sustaining populations at one or more locations. Not all nonnative species would survive in the wild in Oregon if released or if they escaped from captivity. However, many could thrive, and their effect on native species and habitats could be devastating. This could happen even if they survived just a short time.

In the past, species such as nutria were brought to Oregon as breeder stock for a potential fur industry. When that failed to be a financial success, many were illegally released. The damage to Oregon agriculture is well documented. Today, many species of exotic wildlife are imported into Oregon for sale as pets. While cute and may appear to be attractive as pets, many of these could cause tremendous harm to both native wildlife and Oregon's agriculture and timber industries if they were to escape or be "accidentally" released.

State law (ORS 496.012) says that it is the policy of the state of Oregon to prevent the serious depletion of any indigenous species, and to provide the optimum wildlife recreational and aesthetic benefits for present and future generations. Scientific information clearly demonstrates that importation, possession, confinement, transportation and sale of wildlife regulated by this Commission may result in disease, genetic, ecological, environmental and other threats to Oregon's wildlife resources. Yet, Oregon has few laws regulating the importation of nonnative species. Laws regarding the possession, confinement, transportation and sale of native species of wildlife are not always clear. Therefore, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission directed the Department to draft administrative rules designed to protect the integrity of Oregon's native wildlife. These rules were adopted by the commission during the December 13, 1996 commission meeting in Portland.


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