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OR: National wolf awareness week


Wolves are a controversial topic in Oregon. Oct. 12-18 marks national wolf awareness week, which represents a time for Oregon to continue the discussion of wolves in the state.

Oregon wolves may be taken off the endangered species list sometime in the coming months, according to an article from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Currently, killing a wolf in Oregon carries the punishment of a fine of up to $6,250 and a prison sentence of up to one year. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife counted the number of wolves in Oregon at the end of 2013 to be 64.“Wolves were introduced into Idaho in 1995, and — in more recent years — have moved into Oregon. They established wolf packs in Southwest Oregon in the Siskiyou mountains,” said William Ripple, researcher and professor in the College of Forestry. “The reason why we know about the southwest wolf pack is through the story of OR7.”

OR7 is a collared wolf, which traveled through Oregon into California, and then back into Oregon. This wolf is currently being tracked by the ODFW, which reported that he has mated with another wolf and that the pair had two pups this summer.
This family of wolves represents the only of its kind in western Oregon.

Ripple has worked in Yellowstone National Park for the last 15 years to understand how wolves affect the ecosystem. He specializes in trophic cascades, a phenomena in which population changes of large predators affects the rest of the food chain of an ecosystem.

Like Idaho, wolves were transplanted into Yellowstone from wolf populations in Canada in 1995 by the government. Ripple has studied how the reintroduction of wolves affects prey such as elk, and in turn how the population change of prey has changed plant life in the area.

Questions remain about what will happen to wolf populations if they are removed from the Oregon endangered species list, and how the return of wolves to Oregon will affect current ecological conditions.