May 14, 2024 - News

Population growth for Oregon's gray wolf stalls

A photo of a wolf with gray and brown fur looking toward the camera with its ears pointed.

A female gray wolf pup located in northern Umatilla County. Photo: Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Oregon's gray wolf population remains at a standstill following a rise in poaching and suspicious deaths, according to a recent report from state officials.

Why it matters: Oregon, among other states, has dedicated thousands of dollars in resources to rebuild, monitor and protect its wolf populations.

What they found: While Oregon's gray wolf population has grown significantly in the last decade — from roughly 14 to 178 — 2023 was the first year since 2007 where no new gains were added.

  • The April report also documented 36 wolf deaths last year, eight of which are under investigation by the Oregon State Police for potential poaching and poisoning.

What they're saying: "The amount of poaching and other suspicious deaths is alarming, impacts our conservation goals and could affect our ability to manage wolves in Oregon," Bernadette Graham Hudson, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a press release.

Context: Wolves in Oregon receive special statewide protection, but only those in the western portion of the state are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

  • It is illegal to shoot a wolf unless in self-defense. The state outlines several nonlethal tools farmers can use to protect livestock from repeated predator attacks, such as electric fencing or any device that emits bright lights and loud sounds.
  • According to the report, depredations on livestock increased 27% in 2023, and 16 wolves were killed after repeated attacks in northeastern Oregon.

Yes, but: Some farmers and ranchers argue the state's compensation policy for depredation events doesn't make up for the trauma on their herds.

The bottom line: Herds of gray wolves remain concentrated in the eastern part of the state, but there have been new sightings in Wasco and Lake counties.

  • The stagnant population year over year could also signal stabilization from competition over food and territory.
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