The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) released its annual assessment showing an increase in both the wolf population and confirmed depredations in 2020.
The survey showed in 2020, the minimum known wolf count was 173 animals, a 9.5 percent increase from the 2019 minimum known number of 158. ODFW noted the minimum count is a direct count of wolves, not an estimate, and the actual number is higher because not all wolves are located during the winter count.
At the end of the year, ODFW documented 22 packs, with 17 of those packs meeting the criteria as breeding pairs. A breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survived the year of their birth. In addition, ODFW identified seven groups of two or three wolves. Wolf activity was pinpointed in 35 separate geographic areas during the year, including parts of 12 counties. The majority of known wolf activity occurred in the northeastern part of the state in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains north of Interstate 84.
In 2020, ODFW received 73 requests from livestock producers to investigate dead or injured livestock suspected to be wolf depredation, a 46 percent increase from 50 requests in 2019. The investigations resulted in 31 confirmed determinations, a 94 percent increase from 16 confirmed depredations in 2019.
Of the confirmed depredations in 2020, 84 percent occurred on private land, 13 percent on public land, and 3 percent on tribal land. The majority of the depredation (52 percent) was attributed to the Rogue Pack, which depredated 16 times in 2020. In the remaining investigations, two were probable, 15 were possible or unknown and 25 were not wolf related.
In 2020, 39 newly designated or revised area of known wolf activity maps were posted on the ODFW website to inform livestock producers of resident wolf activity. District wildlife biologists informed producers when these new or revised areas of resident wolves overlapped with their livestock and advised them of nonlethal strategies to reduce livestock vulnerability.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance County Block Grant Program awarded $251,529 to 12 counties, up from $178,319 awarded in 2019. The majority of the funds (86 percent) were for preventative measures and included three new wolf biologists. Direct compensation to livestock producers was just over $30,600.
The Oregon State Police (OSP) investigated nine wolf mortalities during the year and found seven deaths were human caused. OSP is still investigating three of the deaths which were determined to be illegal and is seeking information regarding their deaths. — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor