New wolf pack important step for Oregon wolf conservation.
Oregon Fish and Wildlife has reported that two wolves have split off from their home packs and established a new home territory. GPS tracking collars show that the two wolves, OR24 and OR27, have settled in the Keating and Catherine Creek wildlife management units in the state’s northeast corner, near Cove. A wolf pack in the wild consists of a breeding pair and their older offspring, and the new couple is a major development for Oregon’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.
Wolves were absent from Oregon for more than 50 years after the last bounty was claimed in 1947. In 1999 a stray wolf from Idaho was captured near the middle fork of the John Day River and shipped home. The next year two wolf carcasses turned up in the state’s borders, one hit by a car and another illegally shot. But when a wolf named Sophie gave birth to two pups in 2008, it was clear that wolves had come home.
That return has led to intense debate between conservationists and cattle ranchers. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has pushed for strict management, including extermination of wolves connected with depredation and compensation for losses. Currently, the state’s policy stresses non-lethal measures for protecting cattle from wolf depredation, with extermination as a last resort.
Sportsmen are split over the value of wolf conservation. Wolves have been cited as a main contributing factor to the decline of Idaho elk populations, although the elk were suffering before wolves were established in the area. Other sources indicate that the presence of wolf packs actually improves the health of game populations. Adding to the difficulty is the major role played by cattle ranchers in land conservation. Oregon ranchers provide significant habitat to the state’s wild animals.
In the meantime, Oregon Fish and Wildlife is keeping a close eye on OR24 and OR27, in order to track their progress and provide information to ranchers. A map of their current territory can be seen here.