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Gray Wolf

Photo of a gray wolf laying in brown grass by the USFWS

Scientific name: Canis lupus

Listing Status: Endangered in the western 2/3rds of Oregon as defined by a boundary line that extends south from the Washington border along Hwy 395 to Burns, then continues south on Hwy 78 to Burns Junction, and continues south on Hwy 95 to the Nevada border. This population of the gray wolf has been proposed for delisting.  Wolves east of that line are not federally listed. (See map

Critical Habitat: None

Areas of Known Wolf Activity

  • Status and Background

    Historically widespread across much of the United States, including Oregon, gray wolves (Canis lupus) nearly disappeared from the lower 48 States in the early part of the 20th century.  Predator-control programs that included extensive use of strychnine poison had resulted in their complete extirpation from everywhere except northern Minnesota.

    Gray wolf recovery efforts began in the 1980s when the Fish and Wildlife Service developed plans for restoring populations in three areas considered most favorable for wolf recovery: the northern Rocky Mountains, the western Great Lakes region, and the Mexican gray wolf recovery area in the southwestern U.S.

    The northern Rocky Mountains recovery effort focused on Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.  In 1995 and 1996, 66 wild wolves were captured in the Canadian Rockies just north of the Montana border, and reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park (31 animals) and the Frank Church Wilderness of central Idaho (35 animals).  The wolf population grew quickly after those reintroductions and by 2009 wolves had become established in eastern Oregon.  Wolves were not reintroduced into Oregon; they migrated into the state on their own as the Idaho population expanded.

    Wolf recovery efforts in the northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes were highly successful and wolf populations in these areas now far exceed recovery goals.  In 2011, the Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which includes the eastern third of Oregon and Washington, was removed from the federal Endangered Species List and the western Great Lakes population has also been recommended for delisting. 

    In March 2019, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to delist the gray wolf in all remaining areas except for the range of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.  That rule is expected to be finalized sometime in 2020.  Until finalized, the federal Endangered Species Act protections remain in place for wolves in the western 2/3rds of Oregon.  

    Wolf management in Oregon is guided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which was completed in 2005 and updated in 2010 and again in 2019. 

    The Wolf Program Updates are available on ODFW’s website

    Range in Oregon

    At the end of 2018, a minimum known count of wolves in Oregon was 137.  This count represents the number of wolves that could be officially verified; since verification of wolves across an area as large as Oregon is difficult, the actual population is likely higher.  There are currently 16 known packs in the state.   Most of Oregon’s wolves are concentrated in the northeastern corner of the state, where wolves are not federally listed.  However, wolves are expanding into the Oregon Cascades.  There is the Rogue Pack south of Crater Lake, the White River Pack east of Mt. Hood, and a new group that had four pups this year, the Indigo Group, in eastern Douglas County north of Diamond Lake.

    The Oregon wolf population has been growing about 10 to 15 percent per year and is expanding westward.  Over the next several years we expect wolves to become established in the mountains of Central Oregon and expand considerably in the Cascade Mountains and possibly the Coast Range.  In 2018, a lone dispersing wolf was detected in teh Pistol River drainage just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  Given the current population and the dispersal capabilities of wolves, at this point it is possible for a wolf to show up in almost any part of the state.  

    Wolf Sightings in Oregon

    With wolves showing up in new places, ODFW and the Fish and Wildlife Service are very interested in receiving information on wolf sightings or other evidence of wolves in Oregon (tracks, scat, howling, photos).

    To report observations of potential wolf activity, use ODFW’s online reporting system or call 541-786-3282.  

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