May 7 2021
12:20 PM
banner-icon1 banner-icon2 banner-icon3

Local Oregon News

Local News Index

Previous story Oregon's wolf population increasing compared to 2020 Next story
  Oregon has at least 173 wolves, a 9.5 percent increase over last year   Wolf population continues to grow in Oregon  

Story by Yi Lin - The Oregon Herald
Published on Thursday April 22, 2021 - 7:13 AM

SALEM, Oregon - Oregon's gray wolf population continued to climb in 2020, with at least 173 individuals documented by year's end, according to state wildlife officials.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released its annual Wolf Conservation and Management report Wednesday, which includes a minimum known count based on verified evidence such as tracks, sightings and remote camera photographs.

The 2020 population is a 9.5% increase over the end of 2019 when ODFW recorded at least 158 wolves.

This annual count is based on verified wolf evidence like visual observations, tracks, and remote camera photographs. It is considered the minimum known wolf count, not an estimate of how many wolves are in Oregon. ODFW says the actual number of wolves in Oregon is likely higher, as not all individuals present in the state are located during the winter count.

A total of 22 packs were documented during the count. A pack is defined as four or more wolves travelling together in winter. Of those packs, 17 reproduced and had at least two adults and two pups that survived through the end of 2020, making them "breeding pairs." Seven other groups of 2-3 wolves were also identified.

While no new packs formed in western Oregon, the total number of wolves in the region increased from 17 to 22 wolves over the 2019 count. Eight collared wolves dispersed from their packs with four dispersing to other locations in Oregon, two to Idaho, one to California, and one wolf left California and became a resident in Oregon.

Historically widespread across much of the United States, including Oregon, gray wolves (Canis lupus) nearly disappeared from the lower 48 States in the early part of the 20th century. Predator-control programs that included extensive use of strychnine poison had resulted in their complete extirpation from everywhere except northern Minnesota.

Gray wolf recovery efforts began in the 1980s when the Fish and Wildlife Service developed plans for restoring populations in three areas considered most favourable for wolf recovery: the northern Rocky Mountains, the western Great Lakes region, and the Mexican gray wolf recovery area in the southwestern U.S.

The northern Rocky Mountains recovery effort focused on Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. In 1995 and 1996, 66 wild wolves were captured in the Canadian Rockies just north of the Montana border and reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park (31 animals) and the Frank Church Wilderness of central Idaho (35 animals). The wolf population grew quickly after those reintroductions and by 2009 wolves had become established in eastern Oregon. Wolves were not reintroduced into Oregon; they migrated into the state on their own as the Idaho population expanded.

Wolf recovery efforts in the northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes were highly successful and wolf populations in these areas now far exceed recovery goals. In 2011, the Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which includes the eastern third of Oregon and Washington, was removed from the federal Endangered Species List and the western Great Lakes population has also been recommended for delisting.

We published a final rule on November 2, 2020, to delist gray wolves. Wolf management in Oregon is guided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's (ODFW) Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which was completed in 2005 and updated in 2010 and again in 2019.

The Wolf Program Updates are available on ODFW's website

Range in Oregon

At the end of 2018, a minimum known count of wolves in Oregon was 137. This count represents the number of wolves that could be officially verified; since verification of wolves across an area as large as Oregon is difficult, the actual population is likely higher. There are currently 16 known packs in the state. Most of Oregon's wolves are concentrated in the northeastern corner of the state, where wolves are not federally listed. However, wolves are expanding into the Oregon Cascades. There is the Rogue Pack south of Crater Lake, the White River Pack east of Mt. Hood, and a new group that had four pups this year, the Indigo Group, in eastern Douglas County north of Diamond Lake.

The Oregon wolf population has been growing about 10 to 15 per cent per year and is expanding westward. Over the next several years we expect wolves to become established in the mountains of Central Oregon and expand considerably in the Cascade Mountains and possibly the Coast Range. In 2018, alone dispersing wolf was detected in the Pistol River drainage just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Given the current population and the dispersal capabilities of wolves, at this point, a wolf can show up in almost any part of the state.

Wolf Sightings in Oregon

With wolves showing up in new places, ODFW and the Fish and Wildlife Service are very interested in receiving information on wolf sightings or other evidence of wolves in Oregon (tracks, scat, howling, photos).

To report observations of potential wolf activity, use ODFW's online reporting system or call 541-786-3282.

The Future

For a state that prides itself on its green reputation, the extermination of wolves is one of our greatest environmental tragedies. Their return represents an opportunity at redemption.

Most Oregonians value native wildlife and believe wolves have a rightful place in the landscape. We are happy to know the silence of a hike in the Eagle Cap might be broken by the lonely howl of a wolf. If that howl is to remain, it's critical that those who value wolves and other native wildlife stand up and speak up on their behalf.

North America Photograph of a wolf running on a grassy plain with enclosing fence in background Captive Mexican wolf at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, as part of reintroduction In Canada, 50,000–60,000 wolves live in 80% of their historical range, making Canada an important stronghold for the species. Under Canadian law, First Nations people can hunt wolves without restrictions, but others must acquire licenses for the hunting and trapping seasons. As many as 4,000 wolves may be harvested in Canada each year. The wolf is a protected species in national parks under the Canada National Parks Act. In Alaska, 7,000–11,000 wolves are found on 85% of the state's 1,517,733 km2 . Wolves may be hunted or trapped with a license; around 1,200 wolves are harvested annually. In the contiguous United States, wolf declines were caused by the expansion of agriculture, the decimation of the wolf's main prey species like the American bison, and extermination campaigns. Wolves were given protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and have since returned to parts of their former range thanks to both natural recolonizations and reintroductions. Wolf populations in the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan number over 4,000 as of 2018. Wolves also occupy much of the northern Rocky Mountains region, with at least 1,704 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming as of 2015. They have also established populations in Washington and Oregon. On October 29, 2020, it was announced that the wolf would be delisted from the ESA. In Mexico and parts of the southwestern United States, the Mexican and U.S. governments collaborated from 1977 to 1980 in capturing all Mexican wolves remaining in the wild to prevent their extinction and established captive breeding programs for reintroduction.

Gray Wolf

Photo of a gray wolf laying in brown grass by the USFWS Scientific name: Canis lupus

Listing Status: Delisted due to Recovery (Mexican wolf and red wolf remain listed)

More than thirty subspecies of the Gray Wolf have been recognized as non-domestic/feral subspecies. The wolf is the largest extant member of Canidae, males averaging 40 kg and females 37 kg . Wolves measure 105–160 cm in length and 80–85 cm at shoulder height. The wolf is also distinguished from other Canis species by its less pointed ears and muzzle, as well as a shorter torso and a longer tail. The wolf is nonetheless related closely enough to smaller Canis species, such as the coyote and the golden jackal, to produce fertile hybrids with them. The banded fur of a wolf is usually mottled white, brown, gray, and black, although subspecies in the arctic region may be nearly all white.

Of all members of the genus Canis, the wolf is most specialized for cooperative game hunting as demonstrated by its physical adaptations to tackling large prey, its more social nature, and its highly advanced expressive behaviour. It travels in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair accompanied by their offspring. Offspring may leave to form their own packs on the onset of sexual maturity and in response to competition for food within the pack. Wolves are also territorial and fights over territory are among the principal causes of wolf mortality. The wolf is mainly a carnivore and feeds on large wild hooved mammals as well as smaller animals, livestock, carrion, and garbage. Single wolves or mated pairs typically have higher success rates in hunting than do large packs. Pathogens and parasites, notably rabies virus, may infect wolves.

The global wild wolf population was estimated to be 300,000 in 2003 and is considered to be of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature . Wolves have a long history of interactions with humans, having been despised and hunted in most pastoral communities because of their attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected in some agrarian and hunter-gatherer societies. The wolf is also considered the ancestor of most domestic dog breeds. Although the fear of wolves exists in many human societies, the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. Wolf attacks on humans are rare because wolves are relatively few, live away from people, and have developed a fear of humans because of their experiences with hunters, ranchers, and shepherds.

The wolf is a common motif in the mythologies and cosmologies of peoples throughout its historical range. The Ancient Greeks associated wolves with Apollo, the god of light and order. The Ancient Romans connected the wolf with their god of war and agriculture Mars, and believed their city's founders, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf. Norse mythology includes the feared giant wolf Fenrir, and Geri and Freki, Odin's faithful pets. In Chinese astronomy, the wolf represents Sirius and guards the heavenly gate. In China, the wolf was traditionally associated with greed and cruelty and wolf epithets were used to describe negative behaviours such as cruelty , mistrust and lechery . In both Hinduism and Buddhism, the wolf is ridden by gods of protection. In Vedic Hinduism, the wolf is a symbol of the night and the daytime quail must escape from its jaws. In Tantric Buddhism, wolves are depicted as inhabitants of graveyards and destroyers of corpses.

In the Pawnee creation myth, the wolf was the first animal brought to Earth. When humans killed it, they were punished with death, destruction and the loss of immortality. For the Pawnee, Sirius is the 'wolf star' and its disappearance and reappearance signified the wolf moving to and from the spirit world. Both Pawnee and Blackfoot call the Milky Way the 'wolf trail'. The wolf is also an important crest symbol for clans of the Pacific Northwest like the Kwakwaka'wakw.

The concept of people turning into wolves, and the inverse, has been present in many cultures. One Greek myth tells of Lycaon of Arcadia being transformed into a wolf by Zeus as punishment for his evil deeds. The legend of the werewolf has been widespread in European folklore and involves people willingly turning into wolves to attack and kill others. The Navajo have traditionally believed that witches would turn into wolves by donning wolf skins and would kill people and raid graveyards. The Dena'ina believed wolves were once men and viewed them as brothers.



by Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office