Oregon sees another strong year for wolf recovery

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon has documented a third year in which seven or more breeding pairs of wolves are roaming an eastern area of the state and making a strong recovery, officials said Tuesday.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Oregon in the last century but recently started moving back from neighboring states.

“In just nine years under existing management we have gone from no packs of wolves to multiple packs and an expanding distribution,” said Russ Morgan, a wolf biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A breeding pair is defined as two adult wolves that produce at least two pups that survive through the end of the year.

Biologists said eight wolf packs qualified as breeding pairs in 2016 in the region east of U.S. highways 97, 20, and 395,

“Wolves are getting a second chance in the Beaver State,” said Danielle Moser of Oregon Wild. “However, this announcement is also real reason for concern.’

She said conflicts between humans and the wolves could bring renewed hunting of the animals.

The improvement in numbers means the region is now in the third phase of wolf recovery, when the focus remains on conservation of wolves and addresses instances of wolf-human conflict.

Under the third phase of the state plan, wolves can be killed if they are causing declines in populations of deer and elk, or in cases of chronic livestock losses.

Western Oregon remains in the first phase of wolf management, with protections matching those implemented when wolves were listed as endangered.

The eight packs in eastern Oregon are known as the Meacham and Walla Walla packs (Umatilla County); Catherine (Union County); and Snake River, Chesnimnus, Wenaha, Minam and a group of unnamed wolves (Wallowa County).

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