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Oregon’s Howling Success: Four Wolves Located

July 23, 2008

LaGrande, OR – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that two adult gray wolves and two pups are living north of LaGrande, some of the first wolves in the state in decades. Conservation groups point out that the discovery coincides with a federal judge's decision to reinstate protection for wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The protection is temporary, pending the outcome of a lawsuit that challenges other states' plans for managing wolves.

Sean Stevens, with Oregon Wild, says the state has been missing an important part of its ecosystem, until now.

"The wolves keep elk herd populations at reasonable sizes for the area. They thin out weak and dying animals and make those genetic populations for elk herds stronger. That echoes down the food chain, making everything more healthy."

Tim Lillebo, Bend, works with Oregon Wild. He says that unlike other states in which wolf reintroduction has been controversial, Oregon has a chance to do it right, with a plan that focuses on monitoring animals and protecting their habitat, instead of wolf hunting.

"Since we haven't had wolves, all the groups are willing to sit down together and say, 'Let's come up with a plan, in advance of the wolves coming.' I think that's the difference."

The judge's decision has halted plans to hunt the animals this fall in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Supporters of wolf hunts say the animals are dangerous to livestock, and they object to the federal costs of protecting them.

Hundreds of wolves live in Idaho, but wildlife biologists say they don't usually make it to Oregon because they would have to swim the Snake River or cross a dam or bridge. The native Oregon wolf population was wiped out 60 years ago, mostly by bounty hunters. The state plans to monitor closely the four that have recently been discovered.

The ruling, by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy, was in response to a preliminary injunction filed by Earthjustice on behalf of a dozen groups, including Oregon Wild. Malloy handed down his decision on July 18.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR