For Immediate Release, April 21, 2021

Contact:

Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org

Oregon’s Wolf Population Grows to 173, But Pack Count Remains at 22

Wolves Still Concentrated in Northeast Oregon, More Growth Key to Recovery

PORTLAND, Ore.— Oregon’s wolf population increased by 15 confirmed animals, from 158 to 173 wolves in 2020, according to a report released today by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. But the number of packs — 22 — stayed the same as last year, while breeding pairs declined from 19 in 2019 to only 17 in 2020.

The overall population increase represents an annual growth rate of 9.5% above last year’s numbers. This marks the fifth straight year that growth was well below the 30% expected for a wolf population still in the early stages of recovery. The annual growth rate for Oregon’s wolves over the past five years has averaged only around 9.4%, with a low of 1.81% one year and a high of only 15% in another.

“It’s great that for two years in a row now, the state didn’t kill any wolves for conflicts with livestock,” said Amaroq Weiss, a West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But it’s still deeply concerning that the overall population increased so little and that there was so much illegal killing of wolves.”

Today’s report documents nine known wolf mortalities in 2020, including seven caused by people. Those include one wolf hit by a boat while swimming across the Snake River and four wolves killed illegally. Three of these killings are still under investigation, while in the fourth case no charges were filed despite the fact the shooter mistook the animal for a coyote and shot it. The report characterizes this as an illegal killing.

Additionally, in February of this year, five wolves were found dead in Union County, and an investigation into the cause of their deaths is still under way.

“The growth of Oregon’s wolf population has hit a troubling plateau. And the discovery of five dead wolves together early this year is a serious problem that state officials need to tackle if we’re to achieve full wolf recovery here,” Weiss said.

All but three wolf packs are concentrated in northeastern Oregon, which is a small fraction of the wolf’s original range in the state.

In 2015 the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission removed wolves from the state endangered species list, even though wolves are still absent from nearly 90% of the state’s suitable habitat. And in 2019 the commission revised the state wolf management plan to open the door to potential wolf hunting and trapping.

In January federal Endangered Species Protections were stripped from wolves in the remaining portion of Oregon where federal protections had previously existed. This was part of a Trump administration action published last fall. The move stripped wolves of protection here and most places across the country, despite the small number of wolves in western Oregon and elsewhere in their range.

RSOR_Mt_Emily_male_wolf_brown_May_25_14_odfw_.jpg
Mount Emily wolf photo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.