Last Friday, wolves in Oregon were granted at least five more months before the decision may be made to remove them from the state Endangered Species List. During this time period, information will be gathered on the possibility of delisting them in certain areas, rather than state wide, or to leave them all on the list. Most likely, wolves in the eastern part of the state would lose protection while those in western Oregon would maintain it. There are 77 known wolves in the state and four breeding pairs, most residing in northeast Oregon.
Not only does this reprieve give wolf advocates more time to rally against delisting but it will also likely come after the scheduled five-year review to the Oregon Wolf Plan. This is important because without state protection for wolves, the plan would likely be weakened, allowing an increase in lethal action against wolves as well as a decrease in the use of nonlethal methods to prevent problems.
The April 24th meeting of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission was held in Bend, Oregon. Staff from ODFW presented their Biological Status Review of Wolves in Oregon to the commission, as well as to an audience both for and against the delisting. I’m told that wolf advocates outnumbered opponents 33 to 5. The commission listened to nearly four hours of testimony, most of it from those who believe wolves should retain protection under the state’s ESA.
Several folks we know of spoke up, including Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild who is quoted as saying, ““The idea that 77 animals of any kind represents recovery doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
Amaroq Weiss, West Coast representative for the Center for Biological Diversity, said there is “simply no science anywhere on earth” that would support delisting such a small population.”
Wally Sykes, member of Wallowa County’s wolf compensation panel, stated 77 wolves is far too few to provide genetic diversity.
And Suzanne Stone, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, is reported as saying that ODFW’s field staff has earned the public’s trust, but that delisting is not warranted.
Other wolf news is that OR 25, a black male from the Imnaha pack has recently dispersed from his homeland in northeast Oregon to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, north of Mount Jefferson. Russ Morgan, ODFW’s wolf coordinator, reports that the wolf was collared last year and is now a two year old, a common time for dispersal.
News was released that there are three (not two as previously reported) wolves in the Keno unit in southwest Oregon. This group is within howling distance of Journey’s family, known as the Rogue Pack. This ups the number of wolves in this part of the state to at least seven, not counting pups that we hope were born this month. I’m blessed to live a few miles from this “area of known wolf activity” and travel there frequently to be in their presence.
Last month, a proposal was made to allow Oregonians the option of purchasing a specialty license plate featuring a wolf, specifically the much celebrated OR 7. Funds from sale of the plate would provide valuable monies for non-game projects within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
We wouldn’t be wise to put our guard down yet, but it seems a fine time to take a deep breath and breath in the fresh, spring air of a state that has become a leader in the preservation of all of its natural resources, including wolves, a species that creates much more dissension than they earn. With this proactive approach to allowing the wild places to be truly wild, Oregon is a great place for wolves, and for humans.