2016 Wolf Year in Review

Greetings, and Happy New Year! Once again I’ve compiled wolf related news highlights for the previous year. 2016 saw a lot of activity for wolves, both good and bad. 2017 stands to be especially interesting as we enter into a time where the rights of wildlife and the environment are even more at risk. Feel free to add to this list in the comment section, there are many items I missed. And please share with others!


Although not directly related to wolves, the Ammon Bundy and associates takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, had much of the same sour flavor of the wolf wars. Old-fashioned ranching interests and controversy over public land use went head to head with the preservation of wild lands and wildlife, as well as with a large public population that participates in non-consumptive use of the Refuge. You know the rest of this story. The armed interlopers occupied the Refuge for six weeks, then were acquitted in October after a month long trial. Ammon and his brother Ryan were then sent to Nevada to face charges for a similar event in 2014 at their family ranch. The trial is to begin Feb. 6, 2017. I hope for a more just outcome.

We hear reports that a mistake was made in the collaring of four wolves living in the Frank Church Wilderness area of Idaho. The Fish and Game helicopter crews were supposed to be collaring elk. Expressing concern that the collaring was done to track wolves for lethal removal, three environmental groups sued to stop the activity. The Forest Service issued a notice of non-compliance against the Fish and Game department that specified certain requirements be met before they can fly into the area again.

Finland, despite widespread protests, instituted a wolf cull. By November of 2016, 55 of the country’s 290 wolves had been killed. At least 23 additional wolves died due to human causes including poaching and automobiles. Government officials stated the reason for the cull was to increase tolerance for wolves and to reduce poaching.


Protestors gathered on the steps of the Idaho statehouse to stand up against the aerial killing of wolves in the Lolo zone. At least twenty wolves had been killed so far. 72 were shot in 2015. The Idaho Fish and Game department reported a cost of $5,500 per wolf killed.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released its annual wolf count with a number of 110 wolves, a 36% increase over the previous year. Eleven breeding pairs were reported with 33 pups born in 2015 that were known to survive through December 31. There were nine confirmed incidents of livestock depredations. $174,428 in grants was distributed for nonlethal measures and to compensate livestock owners who lost animals to wolves. ODFW reported seven wolf mortalities in 2015, including the Sled Springs breeding pair that were found dead in August, cause still undetermined. Three wolves were shot illegally and a Baker City man was fined $2,000 and had to give up his rifle after pleading guilty to the shooting of one of the wolves.


Sketch by Jane Elgin


Once again, wolves wandered into my home state of Iowa, only to be shot. Two wolves were killed, one in Osceola county and one in Van Buren county. And once again, the hunters that killed them were let off the hook with the excuse that they thought they were shooting coyotes.

On March 15, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 4040 officially removing the gray wolf from the state’s endangered species list. She is quoted as saying, “I support wolves. I also recognize challenges arise in rural landscapes where wolves exist. Minimizing divisions between well-meaning Oregonians and providing the social space for wolves demands compromise and collaboration.” Environmental groups including Oregon Wild, Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands have been involved in lawsuits to stop the delisting of Oregon’s wolves. Updates on this effort were reported throughout the year. Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio also spoke out against the signing of the bill. 

Washington state reported their annual count of ninety wolves, 18 packs, and eight breeding pairs by the end of 2015. This is a 32% increase from 2014. A minimum of seven wolves died from human causes, including three that were legally killed on the Spokane Tribe reservation.

The final day of March brought sad news to wolf advocates. ODFW released that they had authorized the lethal removal of four wolves of the Imnaha pack, including the renown OR-4, father of OR-7 and many other wolves, and his current mate, OR-39 (also known as Limpy) and their two yearling pups. Reason cited was five livestock depredations  in the proceeding three weeks. This eulogy written by Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild says it all. And here is my post from that day.

OR 4 May 2011

OR 4 in May, 2011. ODFW photo.


In Montana, the Rosebud pack was eliminated by Wildlife Services after being implicated in the death of two heifers. Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Department authorized the killing of the six wolves.

Wyoming wolves are still protected under Federal guidelines after the state lost their right to manage their wolves in September of 2014. However, packs of wolves are still being lethally removed for livestock depredations, including the Dell Creek pack 25 miles southeast of Jackson. This report from the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Program states there are 382 wolves in Wyoming with 48 packs. Over $330, 000 was paid in compensation for wolf related damage in 2015.

In a perfect example of how zoos and sanctuaries strive to improve the lives of wild wolves, two captive bred and born Mexican wolf pups from the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri were successfully integrated with a wild litter in New Mexico. Shortly after this, two pups from the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois were placed with the Elk Horn pack of Arizona. Soon to follow was a third reintroduction of two pups into another Arizona pack. Follow up evidence has shown that at least some of the pups have survived and are living wild in their natural habitat.



Red wolf. Photo from Endangered Wolf Center

A single red wolf pup is born at Zoo Knoxville. The male pup weighed one pound at birth and is doing well. There are only 50 to 75 remaining red wolves living in a five-county area in eastern North Carolina. The wild red wolf population is in danger as North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission requested the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end the reintroduction program. About 200 red wolves survive in zoos and rehab centers, in hopes that a reintroduction program will again be implemented.

In British Columbia, the fight to stop the wolf cull continues. Tommy Knowles with Wildlife Defense League, reports that 163 wolves have been killed by the government in the South Peace and South Selkirk regions. Reason cited, to protect the endangered caribou in the area. Knowles and others believe the decrease in the caribou population is due to logging, mining and other human activity. In Knowles words, “...the wolf cull was initially put forward by the forestry industry as a way to shift blame for the decline in caribou and avoid restrictions on logging activity.”


Denali’s wolves are dying as they are lured from the safety of the park and shot or trapped. In May, an emergency order stopped further hunting of wolves near the park after a study found there were only 2.8 wolves per 1,000 square miles, the lowest density since 1986 when it was first tabulated. Most if not all of the wolves biologist Gordon Haber spent decades studying have been killed by hunters. Haber, who fought for a safe boundary zone around Denali, died in an airplane accident in 2009.


OR-33 earned the infamous distinction of being the first wolf to kill livestock in southern Oregon since wolves have returned here after an absence of over sixty years. The black wolf, probably from the last litter of OR-4 and B300 (also known as Sophie), snuck into the the hills just across the freeway from Ashland, Oregon and killed a sheep and a goat. Another goat died in a probable wolf depredation attributed to OR-33. John Stephenson of the US Fish and Wildlife Service promptly strung fladry around the facility where the livestock deaths occurred. This served to keep the wolf away, as far as I’ve heard.


ODFW photo of Imnaha pups. Most likely OR-33 is the black wolf seen here. Taken 7/23/13.

Idaho Dept. Fish and Game released news that a litter of wolves were taken from a den and killed in the Panhandle National Forest. The wolf pups were only a few weeks old at the time of their death.

Center for Biological Diversity released a shocking report on the number of animals killed by Wildlife Services in 2015. They determined that Texas, Oregon, Minnesota and California were the states where Wildlife Services killed the most black bears, mountain lions, wolves and bobcats. A total of 3.2 million animals were killed across the nation. This interactive map details where the lethal removals occurred.


If you are fascinated with Yellowstone wolves, as many of us are, you must read this


Doug Smith and Kim Bean at YNP, 2012

edition of Yellowstone Science. It’s all about wolves and what has the have taught us in the twenty plus years since their reintroduction. Douglas Smith, Senior Wildlife Biologist and guest editor of the journal, writes in the introduction, “Most people rate wolves among the most controversial wildlife to live with; a colleague from India rates them as more controversial than tigers—a species that occasionally kills people.


OR-7, known as Journey, and his mysterious mate produced another litter of pups this year. Two pups (below) were captured on trail cameras set by USFWS. Journey’s older brother OR-3 paired with OR-28 to produce pups. They were named the Silver Lake wolves, not yet a pack according to ODFW guidelines. Check out the new and very informative Pacific Wolf Family website for more photos and details on wolves in the area.


Three Mexican wolves are poached in July, one in Arizona and two in New Mexico.

The third annual Speak for Wolves event was held at Yellowstone National Park from July 15-17. The 2017 dates are July 27-29 at West Yellowstone. 2016-logo





Washington was in the news frequently during the month of August. Early in the month a wolf was spotted on Mt. Spokane, the first one in over seventy years. The rest of the news was not so positive. After several confirmed livestock deaths, the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife ordered the lethal removal of all eleven members of the Profanity Peak pack in the northeastern part of the state. Seven wolves were killed before the actions were called off in October. Members of the Washington Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) including Wolf Haven and Conservation Northwest and others received an onslaught of criticism for their decision to agree to the lethal removal of the Profanity Peak pack. It was later revealed that the state spent $119,500 to kill these seven wolves.

Wolf numbers in the Great Lake states continue to remain stable or slightly rise as Federal protections prevent hunting and trapping. Minnesota reported 2,278 wolves, Wisconsin 880 and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan houses 630 wolves. Collette Adkins with the Center for Biological Diversity is quoted as saying, “Wolf hunting and trapping caused a 25 percent drop in Minnesota’s wolf population, and even with federal protection, the population has not rebounded. This survey shows that there’s no need to hunt wolves to manage their numbers because pressures like disease, road mortality, illegal killings and depredation control (federal trapping) continue to strain the wolf population.”


Ethiopian wolves are the rarest canid in the world and the most endangered carnivore in Africa. Besides the typical reasons for their demise, including loss of habitat and hunting, these wolves are dying from rabies. Researchers discovered that the wolves would ingest a rabies vaccine if it was hidden in goat meat. The results have been very successful. Over 86% of the wolves that ate the vaccine were found to have protection against rabies.


Photo from Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme website

In another distant regions, for the first time in over forty years, a pack of rare Himalayan wolves were seen roaming the Manang district of Nepal. These animals are so unique, with white markings around the throat, chest and belly, wooly fur, stumpy legs, and a long muzzle, that it’s been suggested they be awarded their own species name, Canis himalayensis. Check out the link for a photo of these lovely wolves.


Bad news in Oregon as ODFW reports that OR-28, the breeding female of the Silver Lake wolves, is found dead, apparently poached. Three year old OR-28, a disperser from NE Oregon, had given birth to at least one pup in April of this year. A reward was offered for arrest of the poacher, with $5,000 from the USFWS, $10,000 from the Center for Biological Diversity and $5,000 from the Humane Society. The reward has yet to be claimed.

OR-7 and his Rogue pack, who for so long had not been incriminated in any livestock deaths, are highly suspected of killing three calves in the Wood River Valley of Klamath County, Oregon. ODFW writes in their depredation account, “The Rogue Pack is known to frequent this general area at this time of year.” The livestock in the pastures closest to the National Forest are relocated to California in November, ending the problem, at least until next year.

A wolf from Washington’s Huckleberry pack traveled over 700 miles to Montana were he was shot for preying on sheep. Marc Cooke of Wolves of the Rockies said in protest to the lethal removal, “It’s a sad story that this wolf makes it through the killing fields of Idaho and then gets whacked in Montana. This is a known wolf behavior, and how are we ever going to get a corridor down into Colorado up through the Yaak to improve genetic diversity if they’re so quick on the trigger?”

While Wisconsin hunters killed 4,643 black bears in their state, wolves harvested 40 of the bear hunters’ dogs. Claims that Wisconsin’s high wolf population (estimated at 900) contributed to the record number of dog losses were countered by in 2012 only seven dogs were killed, and the wolf population was nearly the same.

MJS Wolf hunting and trapping 2.jpg

Wolf near the Wisconsin Dells, AP photo




Lassen County, California has become the territory of two new wolves. DNA studies show that the male is from Journey’s Rogue pack, however, the female is not related to any known Oregon wolves. Did she travel all the way from Idaho? Wherever she is from, her presence will likely increase genetic diversity among wolves in the Pacific Northwest. Wolves in the Golden State remain protected under both Federal and state laws.

In east-central Arizona, a wild Mexican wolf was captured by the USFWS and taken into custody for livestock depredation. This decreases the number of Mexican wolves in their natural habitat to only 97.

The Working Circle holds workshops in rural California and Oregon to discuss wolf-livestock issues. Speakers include Timm Kaminsky, Joe Engelhart and Carter Niemeyer. On-site visits to local ranchers were also offered in an effort to work one-on-one with livestock producers in finding non-lethal ways to keep their animals safe from wolves.



Druid pack, NPS photo by Doug Smith

It is reported that the last wolf of the famous Druid pack in Yellowstone Park is killed by a hunter outside of the park. 778M was an unusually large and aggressive male, one watched and admired by visitors to the park. This enigmatic wolf survived for over nine years before being shot.

California releases their controversial gray wolf management plan. Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for Center for Biological Diversity, says, “Because California is only in the early stages of wolf recovery, we need to give these animals a chance to become established in sustainable numbers rather than prematurely rushing to end protections that are vital to their survival. But we support the plan’s initial emphasis on restoring wolves to the Golden State and reliance on nonlethal methods to reduce loss of livestock.

In Michigan, governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that allows wolf hunting in the state if the Federal government drops their protections of the species.

A rare red wolf is found shot in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge of North Carolina. Federal authorities offer a $2,500 reward for information on the poaching.

This PDF is dismal reading, but the US Humane Society has compiled numbers of wolves killed by hunters and trappers since delisting in 2011. http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/wolf-kill-statistics.pdf

I’d like to end on a positive note. In an action that surprised many, the National Park Service released a draft plan to release 20 to 30 wolves on Isle Royale National Park over a three year period. This would greatly boost the current population of only two wolves. Inbreeding has contributed to the decrease of wolves on the island. The article linked here is quite thorough and includes a 36 minute video on the situation.

Thank you for reading this post! If you haven’t heard about my new book yet, please check it out. Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf that Made History, can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, or if you’d like a signed copy, through me. Online reviews are much appreciated! 






















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