Oregon now has 23 documented wolf packs with the inclusion of the Indigo Pack, a gray wolf pack that has traveled between Lane and Douglas counties and recently had its status upgraded by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Michelle Dennehy, a spokesperson for the ODFW, confirmed Thursday that the government organization had reclassified the Indigo Pack. She said it signifies the continued growth in Oregon’s wolf population, which in the spring of 2019 had grown to 16 packs.
“This shows that wolves are continuing to grow and expand their range in Oregon,” Dennehy said. “We can’t predict where these numbers are going to go, but we are continuing to monitor this growth as it continues.”
The number of wolf packs — all of which are documented at www.dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/Packs/, reflect the most updated number provided by the ODFW. It’s also one of less than a handful of documented wolf packs in Western Oregon — the Rogue Pack has had documented movements between Jackson and Klamath counties over the past two years.
ODFW considers a wolf pack to be a group of four or more wolves and classifies a group of three or fewer wolves as a group of wolves.
In October, the ODFW found video footage that showed wolves in the Indigo Pack — which at that time was classified as a group — had given birth to four wolf pups. The organization waited until the end of 2019 to reclassify the group to see if the pups would survive the winter.
Meghan Dugan, a spokesperson with the ODFW in Roseburg, also confirmed the organization’s move to reclassify Indigo from a group to a pack.
Dennehy said it unclear if survival of the wolf pups, if the group picked up more adult wolves, or both, was the reason for the status upgrade. She said more would be known when the ODFW releases its annual wolf report, which she said will be released in March or April.
Wolves in western Oregon currently have protection as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. They lost federal protection in eastern Oregon in 2011, though they still retain federal protection in the western two-thirds of the state. In 2015, wolves were removed from the Oregon List of Endangered Species but have remained protected by the ODFW’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
ODFW has set its Wolf Management Zone Boundary in Central Oregon at state highways 395, 78 and 95. A majority of the state’s wolf activity comes east of those roads in northeastern Oregon, thus giving all wolves west of those roads federal protection.
Recent movements suggest the Indigo Pack has made recent movements across Highway 138E not far north of Diamond Lake, with much of its recent movement coming within the far eastern border of Douglas County. In previous years, the ODFW estimated movements of the Indigo Pack came only between Lane and Douglas counties.
The Rogue Pack has had its movements tracked since wolf OR-7 was tracked coming into Oregon from California in 2011. The wolf found a mate and produced offspring that started the Rogue Pack, which since has had offspring that returned to California. One of the wolves from the pack, OR-54, was found dead in Shasta County, California, earlier this month. Another Oregon tagged wolf, OR-59, was found shot to death in Northern California.
Under federal law, it is illegal to take, shoot, injure or kill gray wolves. Penalties can reach up ONE year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
The Rogue Pack, according to the ODFW, is also responsible for livestock depredation in Jackson County. This past year, the organization documented five confirmed depredations, with the last recorded depredation coming in Jackson County in November of 2019.