Wolf advocates like to use the word “remaining” when they talk about how many of the predators are roaming across Oregon, but the latest annual survey found that the population once again grew, as it has every year since at least 2009.
ODFW today reported that wolf numbers are up by more than a third over 2014 and there were at least 110 as of the end of 2015.
The agency says that the actual number of wolves is likely higher, but that’s how many they can confirm, and says that Oregon had 11 breeding pairs, an increase of two from the previous annual count.
“As predicted, Oregon’s wolf population has continued to expand its range and grow in number,” said Russ Morgan, state wolf coordinator, in a press release. “While Northeast Oregon continues to have the highest number of wolves, there is also continued movement of wolves into Southern Oregon.”
Washington wolf manager Donny Martorello says WDFW’s annual report should be out in mid-March.
ODFW says that 33 pups survived through the end of 2015, and that at least seven wolves died last year, including one that had a rodent in its stomach and a chemical poisonous to animals in its system. Three were illegally shot and five of the deaths are under investigation.
Confirmed livestock depredations were down, with 10 sheep, three calves and a guard dog killed by wolves, with two calves and a sheep injured in attacks. In 2014, 30 sheep and two head of cattle were lost.
ODFW reports that $174,428 in grants was distributed to 10 counties to get ahead of wolf-livestock conflicts, as well as compensate for losses (roughly $14,000 of that total).
Last year marked two milestones in Oregon as well: Management in the eastern third of the state moved into Phase II, and late in the year the Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to delist the species statewide.
That decision is the subject of a bill in the legislature. It has passed the Senate and got a 3-2 do-pass recommendation out of a House committee, but may be “stalled” due to an unusual move by those two lawmakers in issuing a minority report against it.
Elsewhere in ODFW’s annual wolf report, which can be viewed here, are interesting details on what Northeast Oregon wolves are gnawing on and their interactions with cougars:
The Oregon State University/ODFW wolf-cougar research project in northeastern Oregon continued in 2015. This project is primarily focused on understanding competitive interactions and prey selection between wolves and cougars in the Mt Emily WMU.
Since summer 2014, researchers have collected data by monitoring 11 radio-collared wolves from 4 packs and 18 collared cougars using the Mt Emily WMU. Researchers used GPS location cluster analysis to identify potential prey acquisition sites (these are normally areas where wolves either have killed or scavenged prey) and document prey species selection and acquisition rates. To date, project researchers have investigated 458 potential wolf prey acquisition sites during winter months and 105 prey items were identified at these sites.
Elk remains were identified at approximately 63% of acquisition sites and mule deer at 21% of the sites. White-tailed deer and non-ungulate prey were identified at 16% of the sites. Of the elk remains where age of animal could be determined, 49% were adults, 45% were calves, and 6% were yearlings. Of the mule deer remains, 69% were adults, 25% were fawns, and 6% were yearlings. Prey remains were also located at 44 of 201 potential wolf prey acquisition sites during summer months with elk comprising 61% of the prey remains, mule deer 18%, and white-tailed deer and non-ungulate prey the remainder. The age of the elk prey identified during summer months were calves (78%), adults (15%), and yearlings (7%).
The most common wolf-cougar interaction documented is wolves at cougar caches (63%). Six cases of wolves scavenging kills from cougar have been documented. Other interactions include two cases where wolves chased cougars up trees, one case of collared wolves chasing a collared cougar off a fresh kill, and one case of wolves killing young cougar kittens