Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

ENTERPRISE – In 2017 wolves showed the most successful reproduction since the species began migrating into Oregon from Idaho 20 years ago. According to the state’s annual wolf report, pups were born in 18 groups — a 50 percent increase over 2016.

The Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management’s 2017 report found that the Northeastern Oregon habitat is still home to almost 90 percent of Oregon’s documented wolves. Elsewhere in the state wolves were found living near Crater Lake, Silver Lake and on the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Released April 12 the annual wolf report lists 12 packs, comprised of four or more wolves, statewide. Nine more groups of two or more wolves and 15 individuals were also positively identified. Eleven wolf “groups” were documented as successful breeding pairs for 2017, a 38 percent increase from 2016.

The report said two new wolf pairs bred in the Mt. Emily wildlife management unit in addition to the three groups already living there. Two new packs were discovered in Wallowa County - the Middle Fork Pack in the southwestern portion of the Imnaha unit and the Noregaard pack in the Sled Springs unit. The Grouse Flats Pack was almost counted as a third Wallowa County Pack but denned north of the state line so was counted in Washington’s year-end numbers.

Seven packs had changes in breeder status during the year. In five packs the breeding female died and one disappeared. OR-50, a collared Harl Butte Pack wolf who moved into Baker County last fall, appears to have pushed out OR-29, a collared male who previously bred with a collared female, OR-36. OR-29 migrated to Idaho and was killed there by a hunter this winter.

Nineteen Oregon wolves were collared in 2017, a 57 percent increase over 2016, and as many as 25 wolves were monitored over the course of the year. At the end of December only 14 working collars
remained monitoring five packs.

Wolves are also documented visually, through howling surveys, track sightings and by remote, motion-sensitive cameras. The report said Oregon biologists collected a total of 11,851 wolf location data points in 2017. Fifty-four percent of those locations for resident wolves were on public lands, 44 percent on private lands and 2 percent on tribal lands.

Wolf reports from the public increased slightly over 2016, with 397 wolf reports received by biologists or Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s online wolf reporting s ystem, www.odfw.com/wolves, during the year.

According to the annual report three wolf death investigations by Oregon State Police determined charges were unwarranted. A fourth case resulted in the conviction of a man who illegally caught a wolf in a foothold trap and shot it. OSP is continuing investigations in three other unsolved cases of illegally killed wolves.