A new group of wolves is living in western Oregon, according to state wildlife officials, occupying territory in the Cascade mountains that includes parts of Lane and Douglas counties.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the discovery last week after years of reports from the public.
Not much is known so far about the group, though remote trail cameras did capture images of three wolves in February in the Umpqua National Forest. Biologists also found tracks left by several wolves in late 2018.
The combination of evidence was enough for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to designate a new “Area of Known Wolf Activity,” where ranchers are recommended to take preventive measures to protect their livestock.
Such measures include cleaning up carcasses and bone piles to avoid attracting wolves, and using tools such as flashing lights, alarm boxes and fladry to scare off the predators.
Wolves are still federally endangered in Oregon west of highways 395, 78 and 95, though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a proposal to delist the species in the Lower 48 states.
If delisted, the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan would apply statewide, which allows for killing wolves that repeatedly prey on livestock, but under strict conditions.
The newly named Indigo group of wolves is the third to be confirmed in the Cascades, joining the Rogue pack near Crater Lake and White River group south of Mount Hood. At last count, Oregon’s wolf population was at least 124 at the end of 2017. An updated count should be released in April, said Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.
Additional surveys are needed to find out more about the Indigo wolves, such as sex, breeding status and specific territory.
In the meantime, environmental groups are cheering the species’ continuing recovery in the area.
“Today’s exciting news further demonstrates that with enough time and human tolerance, gray wolves will continue to re-establish themselves across historic habitats in the region,” said Josh Laughlin, executive director of the Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands. “It is critical that strong state and federal protections remain in place during this tenuous recovery process.”