Wildlife Officials Report Washington’s Wolf Population Is on the Rise

by Taylor Cunningham

Oregon wildlife officials have discovered a new wolf family living in the Cascade Mountains, which brings the Northern Cascades region’s known group count to three.

The family, which consists of two adults and two pups, was confirmed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife after it was spotted on the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs last December. Tribal biologists have been tracking the animals with trail cameras. The last sighting was in August.

“Wolves will disperse to different places,” said ODFW spokesperson Michelle Dennehy. “But when we have resident wolves—like we know they’re sticking in that area—that’s when we create something called an ‘area of known wolf activity,’”

That “area” covers parts of Wasco and Jefferson counties, which are around 100 miles southeast of Portland. The department will officially name the family the Warm Springs Pack if it survives the winter with at least four wolves.

Oregon Lost an Entire Wolf Pack to Poaching in 2021

In the entire United States, there are approximately 5,600 living wolves, which puts them on the endangered species list. Red wolves, which also live in Oregon, are considered critically endangered. There are only 25 of them known to be alive today.

Oregon’s population has been rising in past years. But the incline has been slow. In 2020, Fish and Wildlife counted 173 separate animals. And by 2021, it only counted two more. The growth was the slowest since 2016.

The number of packs, however, dropped last year. After an entire eastern Oregan pack was intentionally killed by poison, the count fell from 22 to 21. Following that attack, several lone wolves also died from poisoning. Multiple conservation groups came together to offer an $80,000 reward if anyone could offer a lead that would lead to an arrest. Put the poacher or poachers were never apprehended.

In total, 26 Oregon wolves died in 2021, and 21 were killed by humans, according to the ODFW.

After suffering so many losses last year, the state is rejoicing in the news of the newly confirmed pack. And the ODFW and various environmentalist groups are hoping it’s a sign of more progress to come.

“Illegal wolf killing is rampant in Oregon,” Senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity Amaroq Weiss said in a statement. “So these animals need every possible safeguard. I hope this will be an exciting new chapter in the story of wolf recovery in the state, which is seeing wolves dispersing into territory where they haven’t lived for decades.”