Action shows fragile nature of state level wolf recovery?

Friday in Bend, OR the state’s wildlife and fish commissioners launched a process to delist wolves from Oregon’s State Endangered Species Act. Oregon only has about 80-90 wolves (77 at the end of 2014), but the state rule for delisting wolves mandates the consideration of delisting when the goal of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years in eastern Oregon is reached. The goal was reached this year.

This goal is only about a fourth of the number for delisting that needed to be met under the federal plan in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The current wolf population in Oregon is not at all evenly distributed. The large majority of wolves are in northeastern Oregon. They are concentrated hard up against the Washington and Idaho borders. Until recently there were no wolves in the famed backcountry and wilds of the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon. Now there is OR-7s pack, the Rogue Pack (with pups), and perhaps one or two more that might jell into packs. Nonetheless the map of the pack locations shows the state’s wolf recovery is anything but statewide.

The commission set studies of two plans for delisting. One is to delist the wolf all over Oregon.  The other will be delisting for part of the state. In addition, the option to maintain protections will still be on the table. There was no date set by the commission for completion or for action.

The hearing in Bend was dominated by those in favor of wolves.  The count was about 33-5.

Oregon’s wolf population has been growing consistently at a moderate rate, but slower than in the original states where wolves were reintroduced from Canada (Idaho and Wyoming). Beginning with 14 wolves in 2009, the numbers by year were 14 21 29 48 64 77.  In addition to having a less ambitious goal for consideration of delisting than Idaho, Montana or Wyoming, Oregon’s attainment of the breeding pairs criterion was aided by a relatively tolerant rule for sparing wolves that kill livestock. As a result, the number of breeding pairs over time was not repeatedly set back to zero as it was in the three original states.

There are three wolf management zones in Oregon. Two of the three are protected by both the federal act and the state law. These two, however, have by far the fewest wolves. The most easterly zone is where 90% of the wolves live. This zone has Oregon state ESA protection only.

 

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

17 Responses to Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission mulls delisting Oregon’s small wolf population

  1. avatar Richie G. says:

    Time for congressman De Fazio to get involved he is a big wildlife advocate , the article states a 35 to 3 was in favor of keeping the wolves free to say. So what has changed since then I thought Oregon was the most tolerant state for wolves outside of California, which only had a passing wolf.

  2. avatar Theo Chu says:

    I didn’t realize the number of breeding pairs was “repeatedly set back to zero” in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana as claimed in the article. Are you sure about that? Especially when you consider the Idaho Wilderness and Yellowstone NP, which is mostly Wyoming?

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Ted,

      I know you know this, but I say it to illustrate my point.

      A breeding pair is defined as two wolves that have pups in a year that still survive at the end of that year. It is a somewhat difficult condition to meet.

      The pups might die during the year. Pups might not be born in a given year. One or both of the breeding pair might die, be killed, or disperse.

      Ok, you know the above.

      Consider this. You have 4 breeding pairs. Assume that this has been the case for 2 years. Now one breeding pair disappears, bringing the total down to three pairs. The year with only three breaks the string. The next year might again yield four breeding pairs, but it has now only been been for one year, not three years. Two more years are required. The break set things back to zero.

      The rule for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming said 15 breeding pairs, but the logic of dropping below the goal was the same. And yes it happened a number of times. There was one more consideration. They needed 15 breeding pairs for three years in all three states. So just one state dropping down broke the string for all.

      • avatar Theo Chu says:

        Ralph – OK then if I understand it correctly you were referring to the number of consecutive YEARS meeting the breeding pair requirement as repeatedly being set back to zero, not the actual “….number of breeding pairs…” which would have been something less than 15 but significantly more than zero. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. avatar Gary Humbard says:

    From the Oregon Wolf Conservation Plan:
    1. Once the wolf is delisted, more options are available to address wolf-livestock conflict. While
    there are five to seven breeding pairs, livestock producers may kill a wolf involved in chronic
    depredation with a permit. Five to seven breeding pairs is considered Phase 2.

    2. Seven breeding pairs for three consecutive years in eastern or western Oregon is considered the
    management objective, or Phase 3. Under Phase 3 a limited controlled hunt could be allowed to
    decrease chronic depredation or reduce pressure on wild ungulate populations.

    Wolves in Oregon will continue to disperse from NE Oregon into the Cascades Mountains where there is some decent habitat but nothing like NE Oregon. There is also some fair habitat in SW Oregon in the Siskiyou Mountains but they would need to cross I-5 (which doesn’t seem to deter other dispersers).

    If de-listed, the commission is following the plan that conservation organizations helped develop. In talking with the ODFW’s lead wolf wildlife biologist, ranchers are working hard to prevent conflicts and he is optimistic for the future of wolves in Oregon.

  4. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    I hope they will not introduce hunting at all; and the only wolves killed will be for proven livestock depredation. I know that there are those banging pitchforks and torches.

  5. avatar Richie G says:

    Would it not be in the states best interest to set up a tourist range for people to try and see these wolves in the wild like Lamar valley in Montana and Wyoming, sorry. Revenue is a big thing so tourism is big in the state for it’s scenic beauty , why not include wolves in this prospect. Like Washington state has a things for killer whales, Oregon can do more to bring wolves in the front.AS for the definition of breeding pairs wilderness takes a bog toll on the wolf population, seems a little unfair, it is not concrete. Too many variables play a part on the survival of a wolf population , just my opinion.

  6. avatar monty says:

    Two years ago while hiking in the 3 Sisters Wilderness, I found an elk kill that had signs that both bear & cougar were feeding on it. The following day while hiking within a mile of the elk kill site, I saw what I though was 2 wolves. I blew it off until now. This site is with 50 air miles of the Rogue River wolf pack. If the wolves come this way they better like deer meat as elk are few and far between.

  7. avatar Joanne Favazza says:

    When do we start restricting the human population (7 billion and climbing) to a predetermined number of breeding pairs? The arrogance of this culture, with its “dominate and control” mentality, is astounding–and extremely destructive. Who the hell do we think we are?

  8. avatar monty says:

    Joanne: yes, yes,yes!

  9. avatar Nell Harvey says:

    Joanne, you hit the nail on the head, Thank You! The wolves help keep nature in balance, unlike what humans do to natures balance.

  10. avatar Flora says:

    It saddens me that there are those individuals who say we should kill all wolves without true knowledge of the number of breeding wolves that exist while there are those individuals who feel they have the right to kill every wolf … even if it is in a protected area.

    It saddens me that there are those individuals who say they hate wolves without the true knowledge of the role of wolves in the ecosystem.

    It saddens me that this hate “riles up” enough individuals to incite their killing any wolf they hunt down in protected areas for these wolves.

    It’s very sad that there are people who feel they have a right to kill a creature that was put on earth to be cared for by man … by our loving God. (This is my belief.) Yet, these few irrate individuals feel they have a right to supersede God’s rules in our regard to animal’s right. Read Genesis 1: 20-31. You’ll learn the animals were put under our care – not to be killed out of hate. Only after the flood during Noah’s time were certain animals to be used for food – not to be killed out of hate. And, we wonder what has become of the world. It’s the feeling of hate and the need to control others that has caused the problems we have today.

    • avatar Nancy says:

      “It’s very sad that there are people who feel they have a right to kill a creature that was put on earth to be cared for by man … by our loving God. (This is my belief.)”

      Hi Flora,

      Forgive me for sounding a bit harsh, but there are millions of people around the world, that don’t subscribe to your God’s way of thinking “a creature that was put on earth to be cared for by man” and are of the mind that we’re all in it for the long run – humans and non humans.

      But right now, Humans have the upper hand because there are just too many of us, making demands on the “non human beings” we share the planet with.

      Non human beings contribute far more in keeping this planet functioning (and us) alive……….for the moment 🙂

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