Due to the success of gray wolf reintroduction by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, the number of wolves and the range they cover are expanding.
As a result of this continued population growth, biologists expect wolves to eventually begin dispersing from Idaho into Oregon.
The following information provides some background on the history of wolves in Oregon, their current biological and legal status, and issues surrounding their migration into Oregon.
The gray wolf has been extirpated from Oregon for more than 50 years, meaning the species is native to Oregon, but no longer is found here.
The gray wolf is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Wild wolves that enter the state are fully protected by the ESA, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has legal authority to administer and enforce.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission also classifies the wolf as an endangered species under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.
According to the ODFW Wildlife Diversity Plan, the agency strives to reintroduce extirpated native species whenever possible. However, the agency has no reintroduction plans for wolves. The Diversity Plan predicts that there is no year-round habitat in Oregon that would allow wolves to exist without conflict with land uses already in place. Based on the experiences of the USFWS and those states currently with wolves within their boundaries, conflicts have included livestock depredation, livestock harassment, and changes to deer and elk populations.
Research conducted on wolves from 1979 through the late 1990s indicates that wolves, once given an opportunity, will establish new packs by dispersing into new areas. The average pack size ranges from three to 19 wolves, according to a 1999 study of wolves in the central Rocky Mountains.
Wolves' diet in Idaho and Yellowstone varies between elk and mule deer, with elk being the primary diet item in both states. Studies have found that wolves prey upon the old, sick and young portions of the elk and deer populations.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service