According to Rick Hargrave, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, 565 pheasants were being kept in pens in preparation for a hunt scheduled to start Oct. 1 at the 1,800-acre wildlife area, located just east of Highway 99W about 10 miles north of Corvallis.
On Friday, the wildlife area’s manager discovered a hole had been cut in the mesh surrounding one of the pens, allowing about 15 of the birds to get loose.
That was a much lower number than the 100 or so claimed in an anonymous communiqué purporting to come from members of the Animal Liberation Front, a shadowy organization that engages in “direct action” aimed at causing economic damage to individuals or businesses the group views as harming or exploiting animals.
The two-paragraph statement said activists hiked through the woods on Thursday night to reach the holding pen and used aviation snips to cut a hole in the mesh.
“It was the goal of this action to spare these animals from an almost certain death at the hands of hunters and to at the very least disrupt the normal functioning of the hunt,” the statement said in part. “It is sick and disturbing that non-human animals are continued to be used as commodities by hunters to be tortured and killed for sport.”
The message was distributed to a number of Oregon media outlets by Bite Back, a Florida-based magazine and website that covers the radical element of the animal rights movement.
Such efforts rarely succeed, according to David Lane, the outreach and promotions coordinator for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said the pheasants used in the annual hunt are trucked in from a breeding operation in Idaho and are ill-equipped to survive in the wild.
“These birds just know captivity, so they don’t wander far,” Lane said. “They’re not ‘liberated.’”
Hargrave said the break-in would be reported to law enforcement for potential prosecution. And he rejected the activists’ characterization of the annual pheasant hunt at E.E. Wilson as immoral.
“We believe, in terms of hunting and preserving hunting heritage, that this is the right thing to do,” he said. “We don’t believe there’s any ethical issues with this kind of hunting.”
The Animal Liberation Front tried the same tactic in August 2013, when one or more activists cut open pheasant and quail pens at E.E. Wilson. No birds got out in that case.
The Animal Liberation Front also claimed responsibility for a pair of raids on mid-valley fur farms in 2008. Some 215 minks were released from cages at a breeding operation in Scio, but 177 of the animals were recovered. At a Jefferson fur farm where 53 minks were turned loose, all of them were caught and returned to their pens.
Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.