ODFW releases annual Wolf Report

Wolf numbers stay the same, livestock depredations climb

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has released its Annual Wolf Report. With details of packs and known wolf-zones, the ODFW report shares findings from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023.

ODFW reports that for the first time in eight years, the population of gray wolves did not increase in 2023.

ODFW claims that illegal poisonings and shootings killed 12 wolves last year, while the state sanctioned the killings of an additional 16 wolves for chronic depredation of livestock. Ten wolves were sent to Colorado to reintroduce the animal into the Centennial State after voters approved of doing so in 2022.

ODFW counts 178 wolves in Oregon, comprised of 22 packs and 13 smaller groups. ODFW classifies packs as 4 to 11 wolves with at least one breeding pair.

The agency confirmed that 62 livestock were killed by wolves in the East Wolf Management Zone (WMZ) in 2023. In 2022, ODFW recognized 49 livestock depredations from wolves. This shows a 44% increase in just one year.

Improved support measures and timely responses from ODFW staff could represent some of these findings – but livestock producers see wolves moving from elk and deer to domestic livestock.

ODFW has been working with property owners and livestock producers on improved prevention techniques and sanctioned killings of wolves that have committed at least two depredations in a nine month period.

In 2023 the department received requests from livestock producers to lethally remove wolves in nine chronically depredating groups after non-lethal methods were unsuccessful.

One request was denied due to inadequate non-lethal measures being employed. But authorization was given by ODFW for eight groups for incremental removal, with the Black Pines Pack in Union County receiving a second authorization after a female wolf continued to kill livestock. Each group had at least three depredations in the previous nine months when lethal measures were taken.

In total, sixteen wolves were lethally removed from five packs – all in the eastern most portion of the state.

In central Oregon, ODFW has focused its efforts on reducing attractants, such as bone piles, in new areas of wolf activity.

Notably, the westward creep of wolves has continued to reshape the conversation about the Endangered Species status in the state. Congressman Cliff Bentz is working to remove the gray wolf from the federal list of Endangered Species.

Initially confined to the northeast portion of the state, the gray wolf is now spread throughout Oregon.

The vast majority of wolves continue to live in the East Wolf Management Zone (WMZ) – which spans from Highway 97 to the Idaho border. ODFW classifies the East WMZ in Phase III of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. This means that there are at least 8 breeding pairs in the East WMZ. The eastern most portion of the state, east of Highway 395, is in the delisting boundary. This means that wolves east of Highway 395 have grown to sustainable levels to be delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act. Getting the entire state to this high bar will be challenging and likely taxing on wildlife species and livestock producers.

Until recently, wolf populations have grown consistently in Oregon. Packs have been formed in the Hood River wilderness and in portions of the Cascades.

Over the past eight years, wolf packs have been established in Morrow County and Grant County. But those packs have struggled to grow and several lone wolves are thought to be ranging as a result.

In late February of this year, a two-day old calf was killed at Lost Valley near the Wheeler County and Gilliam County line. The depredation in Lost Valley has brought heightened attention to wolf activity in the area. ODFW confirmed the depredation of the calf, which happened on the Wade Ranch.

Sightings of wolves in the area have been reported for several years. But ODFW's report shows that there are no established wolf packs in Wheeler, Gilliam, or Sherman County. However, ODFW's map shows that a large territory in Grant, Harney, Crook, and Wheeler County is considered to be "Known Wolf Use Areas."

Lone wolves, such as OR 131, and a lone-wolf in the Five-Mile pack, and another in the Murderers Creek – are thought to range in a wide area.

It also appears that wolves are traveling through the national forests and BLM land that is forested as they push westward – creating a wolf corridor in Morrow County and Wheeler County between the Blue Mountains and the Ochoco National Forest.


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