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Oregon Wolf Population Stagnates as Poaching and Agency Killings Continue

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Oregon’s wolf population has grown by only three confirmed animals, increasing from 175 to 178 wolves, according to the 2022 annual wolf report released today by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). The report also reveals that the state’s wolf population continues to face significant threats, with 20 known wolf deaths, seven of which were illegal kills by people. This marks the second year in a row that the illegal killing of wolves has surged in Oregon, with eight known poaching deaths in 2021. Since 2012, at least 32 wolves have been poached in the state.

Oregon’s State Wolf Plan is supposed to be adaptive to changing circumstances, but the latest report shows that it’s falling flat. As Maggie Howell, Executive Director at the Wolf Conservation Center puts it, “The slow growth of Oregon’s wolf population is concerning, especially considering the high number of human-caused wolf deaths. It’s clear that non-lethal approaches must be prioritized and stronger measures taken to prevent poaching if we want to see a true recovery of these magnificent animals in the state.”

Oregon’s Wolf Population Stagnates

Despite the ongoing recovery efforts, the annual growth rate of Oregon’s wolf population remains slow. According to recent reports, the population has only increased by 1.7% compared to last year’s numbers, marking the sixth straight year of disappointing growth. This underwhelming trend in population growth can be attributed to several factors, including habitat loss, illegal poaching, and other human-wildlife conflicts.

Over the past seven years, the average annual growth rate for Oregon’s wolves has been around 7.2%, which is well below the expected growth rate for a species in the early stages of recovery. While there has been a slight increase in the number of reported packs, from 21 to 24, and the number of breeding pairs, from 16 to 17, the overall growth rate is still inadequate. This slow rate of growth could pose significant challenges to the long-term survival of the species and the broader ecosystem.

As such, it is imperative that continued efforts are made to conserve and protect the wolf population in Oregon. This may involve implementing stricter regulations to prevent illegal poaching, creating more protected habitats, and promoting coexistence between humans and wolves. By taking action now, we can ensure that the Oregon wolf population continues to recover and thrive for years to come.

Poaching and Agency Killings Threaten Wolf Recovery

Of the 20 known wolf deaths documented in the report, 17 were caused by people, and seven of these deaths were illegal. This surge in illegal killings marks the second year in a row and brings the total number of known wolves poached since 2012 to at least 32. Furthermore, the report reveals that state officials or livestock owners killed seven wolves in 2022, and nine wolves were killed in 2021 due to conflicts with livestock. Two additional wolves died from vehicle strikes, and one died after being shot purportedly in self-defense despite there being hardly any unprovoked wolf attacks recorded in North American history. The stagnation of wolf recovery in Oregon is a signal to the department to take a good, hard look at what changes are needed to get these incredible animals back on an upward trajectory.

Expansion of Wolf Habitat and Management Strategies

The report notes that wolves continued to expand westward in Oregon, with six resident groups of wolves now residing in the Cascades. While Oregon’s wolf population faces threats from poaching and agency killings, the report shows that some livestock producers did implement non-lethal measures to minimize depredation, but six wolves were still lethally removed in response to chronic depredation in 2022. The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s compensation program awarded grants totaling $393,682 to 12 counties in 2022, with almost three-quarters of the funds used for non-lethal preventive measures to reduce depredation and one-quarter for direct payment to livestock producers for confirmed depredations and missing livestock. But we’ve noted in the past how rampant fraud can be in the payment system. In one case, the state paid nearly $1,500 for a confirmed wolf kill, only to realize it wasn’t one more than a year later. The county was allowed to simply move the funds to the “missing livestock” category.”

Conclusions

Oregon’s wolf population is facing serious threats, and the latest report by the ODFW highlights the need for non-lethal approaches to protect wolves and to stop poaching, something they say they are prioritizing, but the numbers tell a different story. The stagnation of wolf recovery in Oregon is a signal to the department to rethink its current management strategies and take necessary steps to protect these magnificent animals. It is imperative to address the root cause of these threats and to increase efforts to minimize conflicts between livestock and wolves. The expansion of wolf habitat in Oregon is a positive development, but more must be done.

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