SALEM, Ore. — The population of wolves reintroduced to Oregon continued to grow into this year, according to the latest report issued by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Biologists counted 173 wolves in the state this past winter, a 9.5 percent increase over the previous year's population.
These annual counts are based on verified evidence of wolves, drawn from sightings, tracks, and photographs on remote cameras. But the actual number of wolves in the state is "likely higher," ODFW said, as not all wolves are located during the winter count.
ODFW documented a total of 22 packs, which describes a group of four or more wolves traveling together during the winter. The vast majority of those packs produced pups that survived through the winter. Seven other smaller groups of wolves were also documented.
There were no new packs discovered in western Oregon, though the existing western packs added several to their numbers over last year. Meanwhile, eight collared wolves dispersed from their packs — four going to other locations in Oregon, two to Idaho, one to California, and one wolf that left California for Oregon.
“While northeast Oregon continues to host majority of state’s wolf population, dispersal to other parts of Oregon and adjacent states continues,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Wolf Coordinator.
During the year, southern Oregon's own Rogue Pack continued to make a name for itself as the most likely to prey on livestock. The Rogue Pack alone accounted for more than half of all depredations — 16 kills throughout 2020. In total, confirmed cases of depredation in Oregon increased 94 percent last year over the year prior, when depredations dropped.
ODFW noted that, for the second year in a row, the Rogue Pack killed more livestock than all of the wolf groups in the state's eastern zone combined — even though only 13 percent of the state's wolf population resides in the western area.
Until recently, wolves in western Oregon were shielded by federal protections against lethal countermeasures, but those were recently lifted by the Trump administration.
"In all phases of wolf management, Oregon’s Wolf Plan mandates that non-lethal efforts are undertaken to address conflict before lethal removal is considered," ODFW said. "In 2020, those measures included removing attractants, hazing, electrified fladry, radio-activated guard boxes, increased human presence, range riders and other husbandry practices."
The Rogue Pack got particularly pointed attention in this regard, with state and federal wildlife staff working "extensively" to drive wolves away from livestock pastures in Klamath County. On some nights, those efforts were successful — less so on other nights, ODFW admitted.
“The personnel costs of this collaboration with USFWS, WS and the Department was significant during the four months,” said Brown. “We appreciate the work of our partners and all livestock producers for their efforts to co-exist with wolves.”
ODFW documented nine wolf deaths in 2020. Seven of those were human-caused, with four of them constituting illegal killings. Oregon State Police is still investigating some of those killings, which occurred in northeastern Oregon between Umatilla and Baker counties.