Status and Threats

Oregon’s Wolf Population Status:

By the end of 2019, Oregon was home to 22 wolf packs with roughly 158 individuals divided up among them or living and traveling on their own, though the true number of wolves is likely higher, as the direct count survey effort used was conducted in winter and might not have been spotted (ODFW, 2019). These numbers are up from the 2018 estimates, which showed 16 packs and 137 individuals, giving the population a growth rate of around 15%, though the 2018 numbers were actually down from the 2017 numbers (CBD, 2020). Despite this increase, these wolves only occupy around 10% of the suitable habitat found in the state.

As of the 2019 Annual Wolf Report published by the ODFW, 19 of these packs are located in the East Management Zone, the EMZ, with 16 packs found in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains north of Interstate 84, and the other three packs in the Blue Mountains south of Interstate 84. The remaining 3 packs are found in the West Management Zone, the WMZ, with two packs in the southern Oregon Cascades and one in the northern Oregon Cascades. Overall, resident wolves were found in regions part of 12 different counties: Baker, Douglas, Grant, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, and Wasco Counties (ODFW, 2019).

As of 2015, the gray wolves of Oregon have been delisted at the state level, and in 2019 a proposal was made at the federal level to delist all gray wolves, though only the wolves in the WMZ were federally listed at that point. 

Habitat Status:

Wolves can live in a variety of habitats including deserts, grasslands, tundra, and forests. If there is a sufficient food source, they can establish territories within its habitat anywhere. In Oregon, wolves are mostly concentrated in the northeastern part of the state (OFWO, 2019). This is because they migrated from Idaho as their population expanded. However, wolves are federally and state delisted in this area (ODFW, 2020). As of today, the wolf population has expanded westward into other parts of Oregon including the Oregon Cascade, south of Crater Lake, east of Mt. Hood, and in eastern Douglass County north of Diamond Lake (OFWO, 2019). Wolves are federally listed in these areas and protected by federal ESA.

Threats to the Wolves:

The status of wolves and their land would be more optimistic if their threats were being managed, however, they continue to suffer from habitat loss and lack of food due to the continued expansion of human dominance. Wolves are forced onto “our” land and continue to be threatened by ranchers and hunters, even though wolves were on the land far before we were. These Oregon natives were first threatened in 1843 when wolf bounties were created. Wolves eventually came back but suffered from hunters and car accidents. The wolves continue to suffer from being shot illegally and legally, often by ranchers with the intention of protecting livestock. If wolves manage to avoid these shootings, the loss of land is causing a divide between populations, reducing the gene flow necessary for meta-populations to avoid isolation (Hendrick, 1996). Overall, human actions are the main threat to gray wolves in Oregon and will continue to be unless stricter regulations and protection measures are put in place.

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