By Micah Dungey
History of The Gray Wolf Listings in Oregon
Gray wolves were officially listed as endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act in 2005. The vast majority of gray wolf populations in Oregon reside in the northeastern corner of the state. In January of 2015, the conservation objective of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in the east Wolf Management Zone was reached. This caused the wolf management plan to move to phase two of the three-phase management plan in the eastern zone, and triggered a biological review of the gray wolf’s status in this region. On November 9th, 2015, the gray wolf was removed from the Oregon ESA by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commision, though they are still “protected by the Wolf Plan and its associated rules” (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife).
Population Estimates After The Gray Wolf was Delisted in Oregon
According to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, the population of gray wolves in Oregon has continued to increase. Since 21 minimum known wolves were documented in 2010, the number of wolves rose to 137 in 2018 and up to 158 in 2019 according to the annual Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) wolf report on April 15th, 2019 (George Plavin EO Media Group). The 2019 wolf report documented 22 established wolf packs, which were defined as four or more wolves travelling together, and nine other groups of two to three wolves. The ODFW indicates that the population is likely higher than these numbers suggest because it is difficult to verify the wolf population numbers (George Plavin EO Media Group). Furthermore, it is clear that the eastern population of wolves have continued to increase since being removed from the Oregon Endangered Species Act.
Current Threats To The Outlook of Recovery of Gray Wolves in Oregon
One of the biggest threats to the current recovery of wolves are their interactions with ranchers throughout the state. If a wolf is caught attacking livestock or there is evidence of a wolf attack, the rancher has two options. The rancher can legally use lethal force to stop a wolf on the land the person owns and report the attack to ODFW within 24 hours of the incident. Or, the rancher can report the incident to ODFW if the wolf was not directly seen attacking livestock, in which the ODFW “may send out authorized personnel to use lethal control in certain situations of chronic depredation of livestock”. Although wolves only accounted for 2.3% of cattle deaths and zero sheep deaths in Oregon in 2015 (The Humane Society Of The United States), lethal removal of problematic wolves could cause the greatest loss in population size as wolves continue to increase in numbers..
The Outlook for Recovery of The Gray Wolf
When considering the above factors, the outlook for recovery of gray wolves in Oregon appears to be extremely good considering that the wolf populations have continued to increase despite being removed from the Oregon ESA. Given that the main threats to wolves are carefully monitored and managed, the gray wolf population should continue to thrive and increase in Oregon.
The Humane Society of The United States. “Government Data Confirm That Wolves Have a Negligible Effect on U.S. Cattle & Sheep Industries .” The Humane Society of The United States , The Humane Society of The United States , 6 Mar. 2019, www.humanesociety.org/sites/default/files/docs/HSUS-Wolf-Livestock-6.Mar_.19Final.pdf.
George Plavin EO Media Group. “Oregon Wolf Population Increases 15% in 2019.” The Blue Mountain Eagle, 20 Apr. 2020, www.bluemountaineagle.com/news/oregon-wolf-population-increases-15-in-2019/article_774f18c2-7f70-11ea-b75a-e390372ab06f.html.
United States, Congress, Wildlife Division. Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2019, pp. 4–7.