ADAIR VILLAGE — The Animal Liberation Front, recognized by the FBI as an eco-terrorism group, claimed responsibility on its website for cutting open bird pens last week at the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area in an effort to release pheasants and quail into the wild.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages the bird pens, reported that two of the damaged pens had been empty, and that the birds held in the other two damaged pens remained in their enclosures.
ODFW employees were alerted to the vandalism on Aug. 16 after a KEZI News reporter inquired about it, according to a report by the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. The post on the Animal Liberation Front website claiming responsibility was reposted in an online magazine, which was anonymously emailed to KEZI.
The online post claiming responsibility said that on the night of Aug. 15, the culprits cut open two pens and then partially cut open two others when they were interrupted by a car pulling into the adjacent parking lot. They claimed that three ring-necked pheasants, one white pheasant and one mountain quail had a chance to escape.
“This action is no victory for those left behind,” the online post reads.
The culprit or culprits cut the chicken wire to the cages, causing about $50 in damage.
All of the birds that the agency receives, according to wildlife area associate Tracy Thompson, have either been irreparably injured in the wild or were pen-raised.
“They would have less than a 5 percent chance of surviving outside the pens in the wild,” she said.
She spoke of a turkey with a permanently damaged leg that would be easy prey for predators.
“The turkey was perfectly happy here to live out its life being pampered,” she said.
The number and types of birds kept at E.E. Wilson fluctuate, but the agency has taken care of pheasants, quail, chukars and turkeys, and usually has about 15 birds.
They are additionally used for educational purposes for visitors, Thompson said.
The Animal Liberation Front, according to the FBI’s website, is a loosely organized movement where people become members not by paying dues or filing paperwork but by engaging in “direct action” against those who are accused of abusing or exploiting animals.
An FBI agent from the Eugene office, which has jurisdiction over Benton, Coos, Douglas, and Lane counties, checked in with local investigators as a courtesy to let them know of the Animal Liberation Front’s acknowledgement of responsibility, Capt. Greg Ridler of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said.
The FBI agent did not return a voicemail to talk about the case.