Wolves nearly disappeared from the lower 48 states in the early part of the 20th century and Oregon was no exception. Recovery efforts that started in the 1980s are slowly bringing the population back. Unlike other states, wolves were not re-introduced to Oregon, yet, they are found here today all the same. So how did today’s wolves of Oregon get here without any formal recovery effort and where can they be found?
Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming were the three states where recovery efforts in the Rocky Mountains were focused in the mid-90s. Sixty-six wolves were captured in the Canadian Rockies and introduced into Yellowstone National Park as well as the Frank Church Wilderness of central Idaho. About half of them were introduced to each area and the population quickly took root. Natural migration led to wolves re-establishing themselves in Oregon by 2009. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), wolf recovery programs in the Northern Rockies (which includes the eastern third of Oregon and Washington) have exceeded expectations. Wolves in this region have actually been removed from the endangered species list and are recommended to be removed from the list in the Western Great Lakes.
Recent Sightings in Oregon
By 2019, there were at least 137 known wolves in 16 packs in Oregon––officially verified. Oregon is a big state with many remote areas and a lot of diverse terrains making counting difficult so the population is thought to be higher. You are most likely to see a wolf in the wild in the northeastern part of the state. They are migrating and expanding into the Cascades: there is the Rogue Pack near Crater Lake; the White River Pack east of Mount Hood; and the Indigo Group north of Diamond Lake. The expansion has been westward with an increase in the population of 10-15% a year. FWS expects established populations in the mountains of Central Oregon in the next few years and possibly into the Coast Range. In fact, a lone wolf was verified just 10 miles from the Ocean in 2018. At this point, anywhere in Oregon is fair game to spot a wolf. If you do happen to see one, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service has a number you can call 541-786-3282 or a report you can submit online. They state on their website that they are very interested in gathering this data.
A Guaranteed place in Oregon to spot a Wolf
One guaranteed place to see a wolf up close in Oregon––12 wolves to be exact––is the White Wolf Sanctuary in Tidewater. I have yet to check this place out but plan to this summer. It’s about 2.5 hrs from my house in mountains near the coast. As of May 2021, they are charging $75/adult and $25/child for a tour. According to their website “We are an educational facility with Arctic Wolves who have come to us from a variety of circumstances. We allow them to live out their lives here in a safe and happy environment.“
What’s Next for the Oregon Wolf?
The Oregon wolf appears to be thriving in Oregon––my home state. It’s great to see wolves here not facing the same challenges they have in recent years in North Carolina (Red Wolf), and Arizona and New Mexico (Mexican Wolf). It would be a shame to see this majestic animal disappear altogether as they did in the Province where I grew up––though even there a rebound underway may be underway.
What can you do?
- Donate to an organization dedicated to the conservation of animals like this. Defenders of Wildlife is a great place to start as is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
- Locally run wildlife sanctuaries also need your help. The one I mentioned above even has an Amazon wish list for supplies they need or you could “adopt a wolf.”
- Write to your elected officials to ensure our wild animals and areas remain protected.