Growth Spurred by Nonlethal Resolution of Conflicts
PORTLAND, Ore.— Oregon’s wolf population has tripled since the end of 2010, according to an annual wolf population estimate released Tuesday by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The new estimate of 64 wolves is up from 48 wolves one year ago; it represents a threefold increase from an estimated 21 wolves at the end of 2010.
“Though wolf recovery in Oregon is still in its infancy, it’s real cause for celebration that the wolf population has tripled,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oregon’s shift to more balanced strategies to manage wolf-livestock conflicts has created a landscape where these magnificent animals can begin to thrive.”
In 2011 the Center and allies filed a legal challenge against the state for violating the Oregon Endangered Species Act by killing wolves for conflicts with livestock. The lawsuit ultimately resulted in the Department of Fish and Wildlife adopting new rules for the use of nonlethal methods to reduce conflicts with ranchers. While the suit was pending, the state could not kill wolves for wolf-livestock conflicts, so the use of nonlethal methods surged. As a result, even as the wolf population has tripled, conflicts have not increased — and in some instances have decreased — and no wolves have been killed because of conflicts with livestock.
The more reasonable conflict-prevention strategies have helped to preserve the Imnaha pack, Oregon’s first confirmed wolf pack in 60 years.
Under the new management rules put into place in 2013, wolves that chalk up four qualifying livestock depredation incidents within six months can be killed. The Imnaha pack had three strikes on its record, but passed the six-month mark on two of those strikes last weekend. With only one qualifying depredation incident now on its “rap sheet,” the Imnaha Pack can continue to maintain the territory it established in northeastern Oregon when the pack was first confirmed in 2008.
“These encouraging new estimates and the Imnaha Pack’s survival show that the tide is turning for wolves in Oregon,” said Weiss. “This is only the beginning of a long journey, but the state has a golden opportunity to build a national model for wolf recovery.”