PORTLAND, Ore.— Oregon’s wolf population has increased by only two confirmed wolves since the end of 2015, according to the latest annual wolf population estimate from a report released today by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Yet despite the modest increase, officials want to relax protections for wolves.
The estimated gain — to 112 wolves from 110 one year ago — represents an increase of 1.81 percent, a stark contrast from prior years, when gains were around 30 percent annually. The state wildlife agency confirmed 11 wolf packs and eight breeding pairs, a decline from the prior years’ count of 12 packs and 11 breeding pairs.
“The 2016 numbers are cause for significant concern and show that the job of recovery is far from complete,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With the population still small and mostly restricted to one corner of the state, Oregon’s wolves continue to need protection.”
As part of a mandatory five-year review of its wolf management plan, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife today released a draft version of the plan containing proposed changes in wolf management. The proposals address different policy issues, including how wolf numbers will be counted, radio-collaring of wolves for monitoring purposes, the system for investigating suspected wolf-caused livestock losses, and what conflict-deterrence measures and other requirements must be met before wolves could be killed for chronic livestock depredation.
One troubling proposal would retain an existing plan provision allowing private citizens to engage in what the agency terms “controlled take” of wolves — meaning hunting or trapping wolves — in instances of chronic livestock depredation by wolves or in instances in which wolves have impacted localized herds of deer or elk. This is despite a 2016 public opinion survey showing that 72 percent of Oregonians oppose the hunting of wolves.
“Science tells us that killing wolves harms their social structure and pack stability and actually increases the risk of livestock conflicts,” Weiss said. “Nonlethal deterrence measures are more effective and less costly over the long haul. This also coincides with the view of the vast majority of Oregonians — who prefer to coexist with, rather than kill, wolves.”
The Department of Fish and Wildlife will present its annual wolf report and wolf plan update proposals at the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s April 21 meeting in Klamath Falls. The public will be able to testify on the proposed wolf plan updates there, as well as at the May 19 commission meeting, which will be held in Portland.