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Despite Increase, OR Wolves Still in Precarious Recovery Position

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Oregon wolves are federally listed as endangered in the western part of the state. (ODFW/Flickr)
Oregon wolves are federally listed as endangered in the western part of the state. (ODFW/Flickr)
April 23, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new wolf count shows growth in Oregon's wolf population, but conservation groups say there's still a long way to go to recovering the species.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) found there were at least 158 wolves in the state in 2019, up from 137 in 2018.

Sristi Kamal, a senior Oregon representative for Defenders of Wildlife, says it's good news that wolves appear to be moving throughout the state, although they still don't occupy large parts of their historic habitat.

But she says the other good news in the ODFW report is that no wolves were removed for preying on livestock, or depredation, and that wolf depredation was down 43% in 2019.

"More number of wolves does not necessarily mean more number of livestock depredation," she states. "We just need to be more proactive in implementing deterrent methods to prevent conflict, and it is definitely possible to sustain healthy populations of wolves in Oregon."

Kamal says wolves are concentrated in northeast Oregon. The report confirms seven wolf deaths in the state in 2019, six of which were caused by humans.

Kamal says the state should tread lightly going forward. Wolves in eastern Oregon have been removed from the list of endangered species, but she says wolves in western Oregon shouldn't lose protections any time soon.

"Our concern right now is that seeing these larger numbers, people will generally assume that wolves have recovered and remove protections earlier than it should be," she states. "So the federal delisting of wolves right now, for example, would be very premature."

Kamal says she's happy to see ODFW reaching out to ranchers and being proactive on management, noting that the folks on the ground are most important because they are the ones who live with the wolves.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR