A group of gray wolves confirmed in northern Douglas County this past month is part of a population that has grown 10 percent in the past year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said earlier this week.
The Indigo group of at least three wolves was found in the Umpqua National Forest north of Highway 138E and the Umpqua River, marking the first time since the reintroduction of the species into Oregon’s wildlife wolves have been spotted in Douglas County. The last time a gray wolf was presented for bounty in Douglas County was 1946.
The group of three wolves — it takes four to make a pack — brings the count to 137 and puts it on the verge of adding to the 16 documented packs in Oregon. That’s up from 124 counted by the ODFW in 2017, and the pack count increased from 12.
“The state’s wolf population continues to grow and expand its range, now into the central Oregon Cascade Mountains too,” Roblyn Brown, ODFW wolf coordinator, said in a press release.
Fifteen of the 16 packs successfully reproduced and had at least two adults and two pups that survived through the end of 2018, making them “breeding pairs.” It was a 36 percent increase over last year’s number.
The annual count from ODFW is based on verified wolf evidence such as visual observations, tracks, and remote camera photographs. It is considered the minimum known wolf count and not an estimate of how many wolves are in Oregon.
The ODFW said the actual number of wolves in Oregon is likely higher, as not all individuals or groups of wolves present in the state are located during the winter count.
These numbers also account for the two wolves that were unlawfully killed, according to the release.
Oregon’s Wolf Plan mandates that non-lethal efforts are undertaken before lethal removal is considered. In 2018, those measures included removing attractants, hazing, electrified fladry, fence maintenance, radio-activated guard boxes, increased human presence, range riders and other husbandry practices.
The ODFW also said attacks on domesticated animals by wolves increased 65 percent from last year, with the 28 confirmed incidents marking an increase from 17 last year. A total of 17 calves, one llama and two livestock guardian dogs were lost to wolves, and an additional 13 calves were injured.
Three wolf packs were responsible for the majority of attacks, with the OR-7 pack’s 11 kills of dogs and cows in the Rogue Valley setting the pace.
Although known wolf numbers have increased considerably over the past nine years, depredations and livestock losses have not increased at the same rate.
Wolves in western Oregon currently have protection as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.