Two of Oregon’s four known wolf packs, the Imnaha and the Wenaha pack, have each added four pups to the mix this year, bringing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife count to approximately 37 confirmed wolves in Oregon, according to Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. “And there’s likely more,” he says.
On June 27, ODFW announced a lactating female was caught on camera in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and pups may be in that area, too.
The pups were born thanks to a hold on a “kill order” on two wolves from the Imnaha pack, including the alpha male for allegedly killing livestock. The order to kill is on hold while the Oregon Court of Appeals considers an appeal from Cascadia Wildlands and other groups.
“It’s an exciting yet challenging time for wolf recovery in Oregon,” Laughlin says. One challenge may include last year’s delisting of the gray wolf from federal protections offered by the Endangered Species Act.
In spite of the delisting, Oregon’s wolves continue to receive state protections — for now. “One milestone we want to see for Oregon is all four packs be breeding pairs for three consecutive years,” Michelle Dennehy of ODFW says. “And when that occurs, we will be able to delist them from Oregon’s endangered species status.” To qualify as a breeding pair, she says, a wolf pack must have at least two pups survive through Dec. 31.
Oregon has been “sanitized of wolves” for about 65 years, Laughlin says, after a governmental systematic extermination program took place to “make way for livestock production and to move manifest destiny west.” The last wolf in Oregon was killed in Umpqua National Forest in 1947, he says.
Since the reintroduction of wolves to the states in 1995, they’ve migrated to historic ranges throughout the west. One wolf, known as OR-7, journeyed from Oregon’s east side down to California. Nevertheless, as Laughlin says, “The recovering population still faces poaching and vitriolic attitudes laced with deeply seeded myths.” Wolf OR-9 of the Imnaha pack was killed by a hunter in Idaho, where it’s legal to hunt the wolves. The hunter had an expired tag.
“The question is not about whether or not Oregon is going to have wolves, but rather whether we can reduce the conflict as the wolf populations make their comeback,” says Laughlin. “Human tolerance is going to be key in defining gray wolf recovery here in the Pacific Northwest,” he says. “We have the ability to create a wildlife recovery success story.”
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