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A group of gray wolves have returned to Douglas County

Gray wolves have returned to Douglas and Lane counties decades after bounty hunting completely removed the apex predator from the area.

On Thursday, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed activity of three gray wolves in the Umpqua National Forest north of Highway 138.

“It’s actually more than a sighting,” said Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the ODFW. “We’ve had reports of wolves there for quite a while, but this is the first time we’ve confirmed multiple wolves that we believe are resident in the area, not just passing through.”

To be considered a pack of wolves, there must be four individuals, Dennehy said. These three wolves are called the Indigo group.

In late 2018, ODFW saw track evidence of multiple wolves in the area. Remote camera images captured three wolves on Feb. 20 in the Umpqua National Forest. Multiple incidents of the wolves indicates they are residing in the area for an extended period of time, Dennehy said.

The Indigo wolves — named for the local Indigo Wildlife Management Unit — are occupying an area that spans the Umpqua National Forest and the Willamette National Forest, according to ODFW.

Dennehy said it’s not surprising the wolves have returned to the Umpqua National Forest, because it’s part of their historic range and there’s plenty of food and habitat still available for them. Elk are a primary food source for the wolves.

The last wolf presented for bounty in Oregon came from the Umpqua National Forest in 1946, Dennehy said.

ODFW has been tracking several other groups and packs of wolves in the Oregon Cascades in recent years. The Rogue Pack, consisting of OR-7 — a breeding male, has been present around Crater Lake since 2014. There’s also the White River Pack on the eastern flank of Mt. Hood and the Silver Lake wolf.

Dennehy said ODFW produces an annual report of wolves in Oregon. An updated report in scheduled to come out next month and it will include new data from the Indigo group. ODFW expects to continue collecting data on the Indigo group, but Dennehy said she cannot predict how it might develop at this time.

Last week, President Donald Trump proposed removal of the gray wolf from its Endangered Species Act listing. ODFW plans to submit recommendations to the proposal in the coming months, Dennehy said.

Advocacy groups have criticized the proposal, stating gray wolf populations are still fragile.

“We are howling with excitement knowing that wolves have returned to the wild of the Umpqua and Willamette basins,” said Josh Laughlin, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands. “We must do all we can to ensure this fragile population is safeguarded and recovery is achieved.”


Education
Not Your Original Nachos named best dish at South Umpqua Future Chef competition

TRI CITY — Sky Arasmith was crowned the winner of Friday’s Future Chefs competition of the South Umpqua School District at South Umpqua High School.

The Canyonville Elementary school fifth-grader cooked up ‘Not Your Original Nachos’ for the three judges and the people attending the event, where students were asked to make Fiesta Fit, healthy Mexican-infused food.

“We were looking for healthy and kid-friendly,” judge Kristi Bracken said. “(Sky’s recipe) wasn’t as complicated as a couple of the others. She knew what she was doing when it came to the avocados and the dicing, so she’s had some practice in that.”

Sky won a pan set, cutting board and other cooking utensils. She will also be entered into the national competition.

“I always cook, like 24/7, so when we did this I love cooking nachos I guess I’ll just make those,” Sky said.

But the best part was the excitement of the time limit and getting to work with her friend Bella Wise, who made lettuce tacos for the judges.

“We’re best friends in life and stuff but we’ve never gotten to cook together,” Sky said.

The two worked together bringing ingredients to the table to be shared.

“My sister made it one time and I got the (flyer for the event) and I loved that idea so I put it down on paper and sent it in,” Bella said about choosing her recipe.

Myrtle Creek Elementary School student Izzy Graviss made a pineapple salsa and Rianna Dalziel made steak fajitas with rice and beans.

“It was fun and I like cooking,” Rianna said. Graviss said she got her recipe on Pinterest and has been helping her family in the kitchen for as long as she could remember.

Roseburg and Winston-Dillard school districts held Future Chefs competitions earlier in the week. Food service provider Sodexo provided the food for the competitions.


Education
Community comes together to raise money for Roseburg Playschool teacher Ana Orozco

Ana Orozco, a teacher at Roseburg Playschool, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but an entire community is rallying to support her both financially and emotionally.

Orozco is scheduled to go in for surgery at CHI Mercy Medical Center for a life-saving operation, but has to come up with money prior to the procedure.

Heather Goin, a teacher at Playschool, got the word out to parents about Orozco’s predicament and Beccah Brooks started a can drive.

“I figured we’d raise a few hundred dollars, but we also wanted to give her moral support,” Brooks said.

The 38-year-old teacher known as Miss Ana lives in the area with her husband and two sons.

When Brooke Communications promotions director Rikki Correa heard about Orozco, she decided to give the plight an even wider audience.

Radio stations of 541Radio — Best Country 103, KQEN, 1490 The Score, i101 and Sam FM — hosted a can drive Friday through social media and various radio shows throughout the day. People donated popcans and bottles throughout the day.

By late Friday evening, two trucks were filled with returnable bottles and cans, Correa said.

“It’s exciting and overwhelming,” Goin said. “(Orzoco) is grateful and humbled. Thankful. She’s emotional about it and concerned about how she’s going to repay everyone, but she already has.

“She loves kids. Her whole life has been about kids. She used to tach at Cobb School and she was a nanny and when we had an opening she was all over it. She’s super sweet and kind. She deserves the help. She deserves to not be worrying about money.”

Brooks said business have also been in contact to donate money and cans.

“It’s good to remember that we’re form a small town and there’s a lot of good people here,” Goin said.

Goin said a letter about Orozco’s illness went home with parents so they could decide what to tell their children.

“They’re really little, so the parents can talk to them whatever way they see fit,” Goin said. “But I do know that she’s been getting a lot of hugs and a little boy told her he’s sorry she has an icky sickness.”

This weekend, Goin and Brooks will go to Roseburg BottleDrop Redemption Center to find out how much money they’ve raised. Donations can also be made at Wells Fargo to the Ana Orozco Fund or at Roseburg Playschool.