population continues to grow in Oregon
SALEM — Oregon's gray wolf population
continued to climb in 2020, with at least 173 individuals
documented by year's end, according to state wildlife
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 started returning to Oregon in
1999 following campaigns decades earlier to eradicate the
species across the West. The Wenaha pack was the first to
become re-established in the far northeast corner of Oregon
in 2008, and the population has been slowly but steadily
rising every year over the past decade.
"While northeast Oregon continues to
host the majority of the state's wolf population, dispersal
to other parts of Oregon and adjacent states continues,"
said Roblyn Brown, ODFW wolf program coordinator.
A total of 22 packs were also
documented in 2020, the same number as in 2019. Of those, 17
qualified as breeding pairs, having an adult male and adult
female with at least two pups that survived to Dec. 31.
Under the ODFW wolf plan, management
is divided into eastern and western zones. In Eastern
Oregon, wolves now fall under Phase III of the plan, which
means the population has reached at least seven breeding
pairs for three consecutive years.
West of highways 395, 78 and 95,
wolves are still under Phase I of the plan, and will not
move into Phase II until there are four breeding pairs for
three consecutive years.
The different phases determine how
local wildlife biologists and ranchers may respond to wolves
that habitually prey on livestock — a standard known as
Chronic depredation in Phase I is
defined as four confirmed attacks on livestock in six
months, after which ODFW can consider killing problem
wolves. In Phases II and III, chronic depredation changes to
two confirmed kills in nine months.
All phases require ranchers to use
non-lethal deterrents to haze wolves away from their herds,
such as range riders, flashing lights or alarm boxes.
ODFW confirmed 31 livestock
depredations in 2020, up 94% from 2019. However, 16 of those
were attributed to the Rogue pack, whose range straddles
Jackson and Klamath counties in southwest Oregon.
While ODFW removed wolves from the
state endangered species list in 2015, gray wolves remained
federally protected in Western Oregon during all of 2020.
Over the course of 99 days between
July 30 and Nov. 25, ODFW partnered with the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services to limit
depredations by the Rogue pack, including coordinated
nighttime patrols to haze wolves out of livestock pastures
in the Wood River Valley.
Despite those efforts, wolves
continued to prey on cattle in the area.
"The personnel costs of this
collaboration (with USFWS, USDA and ODFW) were significant
during the four months," Brown said. "We appreciate the work
of our partners and all livestock producers for their
efforts to co-exist with wolves."
Ranchers may be compensated for
wolf-livestock losses from the Oregon Department of
Agriculture's Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial
Assistance Grant Program. ODA awarded $251,529 to 12
counties in 2020, up from $178,319 awarded in 2019. The
program also helps pay for purchasing and implementing
Gray wolves were officially removed
from the federal Endangered Species Act across the Lower 48
states in January under a rule finalized by the Trump
administration. Six environmental groups have since sued to
overturn the delisting.
Sristi Kamal, senior Oregon
representative for the group Defenders of Wildlife,
said increasing wolf numbers are encouraging, though
long-term recovery is still dependent on addressing multiple
threats including poaching and pushes for predator control
"We have an opportunity in Oregon to
ensure habitat connectivity and establish a landscape where
wolves and people are both able to flourish," Kamal said in
a statement. "Defenders of Wildlife is committed to working
with agency staff, landowners and ranchers to make this
There were seven human-caused wolf
mortalities in Oregon in 2020, according to ODFW. One wolf
was hit by a vehicle on Interstate 84, and another was hit
by a boat while swimming across the Snake River.
Four wolves were illegally poached,
and three cases are still under investigation.
The breeding male of the Ruckel Ridge
Pack was shot in Umatilla County in May. The breeding male
of the Cornucopia Pack was shot in September in Baker
County. A subadult wolf, believed to be from the Pine Creek
Pack, was shot in October in Baker County.
ODFW staff will present an overview of
the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management 2020 Annual
Report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at their April 23
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