SALEM, Ore. — Oregon's protected population of grey wolves grew over last year, according to counts done over the winter by state wildlife biologists. Howeever, the venerable father of southern Oregon's own "Rogue Pack" may not have made it through the winter months.
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) recorded 158 wolves in the state over this past winter — a 15 percent increase over the last count of 137. The count is part of the agency's annual report released on Wednesday.
The yearly counts or based on "verified wolf evidence" — sightings, tracks, and photos taken by remote cameras. The number is usually considered to be a minimum count, not a precise accounting.
"The actual number of wolves in Oregon is likely higher, as not all individuals present in the state are located during the winter count," ODFW said.
In the report, state biologists documented 22 packs of four or more wolves traveling together in winter, up from 16 packs the year before. Nine smaller groups of two or three wolves were also found.
“The state’s wolf population continues to grow and expand its range, with three new packs in the Blue Mountains south of Interstate 84,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Wolf Coordinator.
Of the identified packs, 19 reproduced and had at least two adults and two pups surviving through the end of 2019, constituting a "breeding pair."
The Rogue Pack
The renowned progenitor of southern Oregon's Rogue Pack, known as OR-7, was last photographed in the fall and has not been documented since, though his mate has remained active along with three other wolves. ODFW did not document any breeding in the pack over 2019.
OR-7 was born in 2009 and is estimated to be 11 years old, which ODFW says is old for a wolf.
“We don’t know if OR7 has died, but it would be reasonable to assume considering his age, which is old for a wolf in the wild,” said Brown. “It is natural for packs to change over time as individual wolves are born, disperse or die.”
Last year's wolf report saw a dramatic spike in wolves preying on livestock, much of it by the Rogue Pack. This time, ODFW said, wolf depredations were down 43 percent.
Still, the majority of Oregon's wolf depredation in 2019 was attributed to the Rogue Pack, which struck ranchers' animals nine times over the year.
Less than 30 percent of packs that were present in 2019 preyed on livestock, ODFW said. Five other packs each depredated one time, and one pack depredated twice.
Oregon’s Wolf Plan mandates that ranchers use non-lethal means to keep wolves away before lethal removal can be considered. In 2019, ODFW said, those measures included removing attractants, hazing, electrified fladry, fence maintenance, radio-activated guard boxes, increased human presence, range riders and other husbandry practices.
“The wolf population continues to expand into areas where livestock producers have less experience with wolves. I have been impressed with the ingenuity of Oregon’s ranchers as they look for and implement new tools and techniques to reduce the vulnerability of their livestock on a landscape with wolves,” said Brown. “We appreciate all livestock producers for their efforts to co-exist with wolves.”