Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 19, 2022


Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,

Oregon’s Wolf Population Increases by Only Two After Year of Poaching Deaths

PORTLAND, Ore.— Oregon’s wolf population increased by two confirmed animals in 2021 — from 173 to 175 wolves — according to a report released today by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. There were 21 reported packs in 2021, while the number of breeding pairs decreased by one for a total of 16.

This small population increase comes after a tragic year that saw eight gray wolves killed by deliberate poisoning in northeast Oregon. State officials themselves killed another eight wolves in 2021 over conflicts with livestock.

“This miniscule increase isn’t surprising after a year filled with such tragedy for Oregon’s wolves,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I can only hope that this terrible poaching doesn’t continue to impact the already slow growth of this recovering population. State officials need to do more to combat the illegal killing of wolves, and they need to embrace nonlethal ways of preventing conflicts with livestock.”

The overall population increase represents an annual growth rate of 1.2% 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 2021 setting a new low.

Today’s report documents 26 known wolf deaths in 2021, including 21 caused by people. Those deaths include the slew of disturbing wolf poisonings. In February 2021 Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Troopers reported the poisoning of five members of the Catherine wolf pack in Union County. That April another two wolves from the Five Points pack were reported poisoned. In July another poisoning was reported — a female wolf from the Clark Creek pack.

The Center, along with other conservation groups, is offering $26,000 in rewards for any information leading to a conviction in these unsolved poisonings.

“Despite population growth, these recent poachings show that we still have a lot of work to do in Oregon,” said Ressler. “Coexistence with these amazing animals is the goal, and we’re still a long way from reaching that, but with lots of work we hope to get there.”


All but two of Oregon’s wolf packs are concentrated in the northeast, 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. In 2019 the commission revised the state wolf management plan to open the door to potential wolf hunting and trapping.

The Trump administration stripped federal protection for wolves in the remaining portion of Oregon in January 2021. These protections were restored by a federal judge this February based on a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center and other partners. This decision once again provides federal protection for wolves in the western part of the state.

A male gray wolf from the Wenaha pack in 2010. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Image is availalbe 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.

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