Seven years ago there were no wolves living in Oregon, and the grey wolf was considered an endangered species.
Today the grey wolf is still considered endangered, but successful recovery efforts have state biologists looking at a future where the wolf is no longer protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Last month, biologists at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife counted seven breeding pairs of wolves for the third year in a row. The successful count moves the state into Phase 2 of its Wolf Conservation and Management plan, a move that removes some protections for the species but keeps wolf hunting illegal.
“This is an important step for Oregon. Wolves have now met one of the initial milestones envisioned by the public and the [ODFW] Commission,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator.
The Wolf Conservation and Management plan details that the ultimate goal of wolf recovery is a sustainable and controllable population and a total delisting of the wolf from the state’s endangered species list.
Before fish and wildlife commissioners can vote on the issue, state biologists must complete an overview on the status of wolves in Oregon. The data, along with a recommendation, will be presented to the commission in April.
The news is optimistic for Oregon ranchers, many of whom are for the delisting. Now that recovery targets have been met, Phase 2 allows ranchers on public lands to kill wolves that are caught chasing livestock. Ranchers on private land may use “non-lethal injurious harassment” without a permit in order to drive away wolves.
Todd Nash of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association says the news is good for ranchers, but the new allowances aren’t enough.
Wolves kill at night. There’s not much chance of catching them in the act at 2 a.m. in a remote area.
The final population count will come in March when ODFW releases its annual wolf report.