Oregon-Wolf Pups Born

A female juvenile wolf from the Indigo Pack of wolves who was fitted for a GPS collar in the Umpqua National Forest. The collar on the wolf, dubbed OR-92, was able to show the location of the pack after the Archie Creek fire burned more than 131,000 acres west of its known area of activity.

Much of Douglas County’s wildlife, in one way or another, has been affected or displaced by the effects of the Archie Creek Fire east of Glide.

But what about the gray wolves on the eastern end of the county?

“It really didn’t affect them that much,” said Sam Dodenhoff, Southwestern Oregon wolf biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said of the Indigo Pack of wolves. “They’ve just been hanging around the Diamond Lake and Crescent Lake areas and in some instances, they’ve been just a little bit south of Toketee Falls.”

The Archie Creek Fire did, in fact, put the Indigo Pack in danger when it spread close to the pack’s activity area, which has extended west of Clearwater but has remained mostly near the county lines separating Lane, Douglas and Klamath counties. But it never extended enough to move the pack, which has grown slightly since the ODFW’s most recent count earlier this year.

The Indigo Pack remains one of three gray wolf packs in western Oregon along with the Rogue Pack, which has stayed primarily around the Jackson and Klamath county borders, and the White River Pack, which has an area of known activity near Timothy Lake in Oregon’s northern Cascade Mountain Range.

Wolves west of state highways 395, 95 and 78 have federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, and anyone who takes, harms or kills a wolf with those protections can be slapped with penalties of up to a year in prison and fines of up to $100,000. Most of Oregon’s wolf packs reside in the far northeastern part of Oregon, and wolves in eastern Oregon were removed from the state’s endangered species list in 2015.

The current pack was first identified on March of 2019 when three wolves were spotted on a remote camera in the Umpqua National Forest north of Highway 138 East. Later in the year, shots from remote cameras showed a female walking along a logging trail with three wolf pups in the eastern part of the county. The ODFW considers four or more wolves together to be a pack — three or fewer wolves is considered by the agency as a group of wolves — but waited until the beginning of this year to make that designation to see how many of the pups survived.

Tracking the pack has been challenging since ODFW had to remove its remote cameras from the area because of the Archie Creek Fire, Dodenhoff said. He also said the pack had grown to eight wolves with two collared females that included wolves designated as OR-80 and OR-92 — a term the ODFW uses to name each of the wolves the agency collars in numerical order.

Dodenhoff said the three pups are still alive and one of the wolves, OR-80, died this past month. That leaves four adults, including OR-92, for a total of seven wolves in the pack.

He said the pack likely has seen “no shortage of food,” which is likely the reason why it has remained in the its area and hasn’t wandered elsewhere.

“The one thing about wolves is they they certainly live and die by mobility, and they can travel long distances in a short amount of time,” Dodenhoff said. “That hasn’t been the case for them because it seems like there’s been a pretty consistent food source.”

Dodenhoff said he and other ODFW personnel plan to get into the area to re-install remote cameras when fire restrictions in the Umpqua National Forest have been fully lifted.

Jon Mitchell is a page designer, photographer and writer for The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4214, or by email at jmitchell@nrtoday.com.

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