Wolf Tracks Found on Mt. Hood, First Since 1947

National Geographic Young Explorer Jay Simpson is part of the Wolf OR-7 Expedition, a 1,200-mile adventure in the tracks of a lone wolf beginning May 2014. Using an estimated GPS track of the lone Wolf OR-7, they’ll have 42 days to mountain bike and hike across Oregon and Northern California. Their aim is to educate and share the story of a real wolf, dispelling myths and misinformation through educational products and presentations.  Visit or7expedition.org or Facebook.com/or7expedition for more.

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Mt. Hood, Photo: Courtesy of Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory, USDOT FHWA
Mt. Hood, Photo: Courtesy of Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory, Photo: USDOT FHWA.

Oregon wolf and wildlife advocates celebrated yesterday with confirmation of wolf tracks found on the eastern foothills of Oregon’s Mt. Hood. This is the first sign of a wolf in the Cascades Range since the famous Wolf OR-7 made headlines for visiting in 2011. Details of the December wolf-track spotting comes from Oregon Fish and Wildlife’s recently released 2013 Annual Report for Wolf Conservation and Management, among other indications of a recovering wolf population.

This unknown wolf’s current location remains a mystery as state biologist do not have enough information to say if the wolf has remained in the area or was just wandering through. The cause for celebration comes as this is the first sign of a wolf in the Cascades Range since the famous Wolf OR-7 made headlines for visiting in 2011. If two wolves have made it nearly 200-miles west of the primary range of wolves in the state, we can see that the door remains opens for wolves to return to western Oregon.

Suitable wolf habitat can be found in many places along the Cascades, but as Rob Klavens, wildlife advocate at Oregon Wild stated in a recent interview,  “the trick is that there is a gap in good wolf habitat between where they currently live in Oregon and the Cascades. So it’s going to take a few brave, wandering wolves from elsewhere to cross and then find each other.”

Aerial footage of wolf B-300, taken January 23, 2008 in northeastern Oregon. Photo by ODFW.
Aerial footage of wolf B-300, taken January 23, 2008
in northeastern Oregon. Photo by ODFW.

But this wandering behavior can be typical of young wolves who disperse as they mature, leaving their pack to find a new pack or to create their own. In Oregon, dispersing wolves continue to push the boundaries of what is considered modern-day wolf country. It was a dispersing female wolf from Idaho that in 2008 became the first wolf to roam Oregon since 1947. Then it was Wolf OR-7, who traveled to the Cascade Range and then to California in 2011, making international headlines for wolf recovery in the Pacific Northwest.

In the previous six years, Oregon’s wolf population has grown to 64 known wolves, primarily keeping to the northeast corner of the state. In the 2013 annual report, ODFW has shown that the current number of known wolf packs is up to 8, but with only 4 breeding pairs within the state.

ODFW known wolves in Oregon, 2013 Annual Report
ODFW known wolves in Oregon, 2013 Annual Report

Similar repopulation efforts of predator species can frequently lead to raise levels conflict with livestock. But in Oregon, a focus on non-lethal prevention methods has successfully kept known wolf predations of livestock low.  There is actually a downward trend in the loss of cattle, sheep or other animals to wolves. In 2013, there were only 5 cattle, 6 sheep, and 1 goat losses confirmed as wolf predations.

OWFW Confirmed Livestock Predations, 2013 Annual Report
OWFW Confirmed Livestock Predations, 2013 Annual Report

The best news for wildlife advocates in the report: for the second year in a row, no wolves have been killed as a result of the state. Obviously a good thing for wolf populations, this fact also helps the management of wolves from causing public outcry or lawsuits, something neighboring Idaho continues to struggle with.

When all these indicators are taken in all at once, that wolf populations continue to rise, that wolves survive their journeys to seek new habitats within the state, that wolf attacks on livestock have not increased, and that no wolves have been killed by the state for livestock predations, Oregon appears to be doing exceedingly well in seeking what coexistence with wolves might actually look like.

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National Geographic Young Explorer Jay Simpson is part of the Wolf OR-7 Expedition, a 1,200-mile adventure in the tracks of a lone wolf beginning May 2014. Using an estimated GPS track of the lone Wolf OR-7, they’ll have 42 days to mountain bike and hike across Oregon and Northern California. Their aim is to educate and share the story of a real wolf, dispelling myths and misinformation through educational products and presentations. Visit or7expedition.org or Facebook.com/or7expedition for more. Jay's previously walked over 400 miles in the mountains of South Africa, completing the first trek of the entire Rim of Africa Mountain Trail, to help educate South African youth on the Cape Floristic Region and conservation through the story of creating Africa’s first Mega-Trail. More at Rim of Africa Multimedia Trail Journal.

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