By Jim Cornelius, News Editor
Tuesday, April 26, 2022 12:35 PM
One of the Metolius wolves strolls past a trail camera on March 30, on Forest Service lands in Jefferson County. photo courtesy ODFW
There are wolves in the Metolius Basin.
“It’s a new area of wolf activity,” Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Assistant Wolf Biologist Jamie Bowles told The Nugget last week.
ODFW released its annual wolf report on April 19. The full report can be accessed at bit.ly/ODFW-wolves.
According to ODFW, the minimum known count of wolves in Oregon at the end of 2021 was 175 wolves, an increase of two wolves over the 2020 minimum known number of 173. This annual count is based on verified wolf evidence (like visual observations, tracks, and remote camera photographs). The actual number of wolves in Oregon is higher, as not all individuals present in the state are located during the winter count.
The report lists two wolves in a 9.4-mile circumference “estimated wolf area” in the Metolius Basin. Camp Sherman lies on the western fringe of that circle; the bulk of the territory lying toward the east and north.
“It’s a pretty recent thing for us,” Bowles said. “We’ve been getting public reports since about August .”
ODFW personnel spotted confirmed wolf tracks during aerial and ground surveys of wildlife, and set up trail cameras.
“We were able to get photos of them on the trail cameras,” Bowles said.
This is the first contemporary confirmed “resident wolf activity” in this area. The term “resident” does not, however, necessarily mean that the wolves will take up permanent lodgings.
“We don’t know if they’ll stick around,” Bowles acknowledged.
Wolves follow their prey — deer and elk — and may head for higher elevations with the herds as the weather warms. They could return to the “estimated wolf area,” or they may move on.
Bowles noted that wolves, are “an important part of the ecosystem.” She also noted that, while wolves get a lot of attention from the public, Sisters Country is also home to other large predators, including many mountain lions and a population of bears.
Local residents Susan Prince and Jennie Sharp formed the Wolf Welcome Committee in Sisters Country to influence local opinion favorably toward the apex predator. They made a statement about the ODFW report last week:
“We are very excited to hear about the new Metolius ‘estimated wolf area.’ The Annual Wolf Report states that at least 21 wolves were killed by humans in 2021. So, with our enthusiasm, comes caution. We hope our community can respect and protect the ongoing vulnerability and privacy of the Metolius wolves. While Central Oregon — west of Highway 97 — falls under the ESA protections, there still exists a lot of fear, hatred, and misinformation against our top predators, including wolves. Wolf Welcome Committee was founded to positively influence public opinion about wolves and to create a welcoming environment for them when they establish in Central Oregon. Now that they are here, we all have the unprecedented opportunity to be ambassadors for our new neighbors.”
According to the report, wolf mortalities were higher this year, with 26 known mortalities, up from 10 in 2020. Of those, 21 were human-caused (due to poaching, vehicle collisions, and ODFW lethal control after chronic livestock depredation).
“The wolf count did not increase as much over the past year as in previous years, and a higher number of mortalities that included the loss of breeding adults certainly played a role,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW wolf biologist. “Despite this, we are confident in the continued health of the state’s wolf population as they expand in distribution across the state and show a strong upward population trend.”
Depredations of livestock continue to trend lower than the wolf population, according to the report, and most packs did not depredate in 2020. However, last year saw higher counts of wolf depredation (49 confirmed incidents versus 31 in 2020), with most incidents happening from late summer to fall rather than in spring.
“After a calm spring with few incidents, we saw a much higher number of depredations from July through November despite livestock producers’ extensive non-lethal efforts to reduce conflict,” said Brown. “We thank all producers who have taken preventive measures and encourage all those in areas with wolves to reach out for assistance.”
ODFW offers technical advice, and funds are available to support nonlethal preventive measures through ODA’s Wolf Compensation Grant Program.
Brown expressed concern about the level of wolf poaching in Oregon, with losses that included an entire wolf pack last year.
“We hope that anyone with information will step forward, which can be done anonymously, and claim the preference points or the monetary reward offered, which is now at $50,000 for the Catherine Pack.”
Keep Wolves Wild
Wolves generally avoid human interactions, unless they have become acclimated to people. Do your part to keep wolves where they belong — in the wild.
•?Don’t feed the wolves. Wolves are wary of people; they can lose their fear of humans by becoming used to them.
•?Don’t feed other wildlife. Deer and small mammals can attract wolves, cougars, and bears.
•?Feed pets indoors. Never leave food outside.
•?When camping, secure all food from wildlife and sleep away from cooking areas.
•?Keep dogs leashed when outdoors.
•?Steer clear of pups and any young wildlife—mother is likely nearby.
•?If you hunt with dogs, avoid known areas of wolf activity. Check for wolf tracks and signs before letting dogs loose.
Encountering a Wolf
In the unlikely event that a wolf threatens a human, here is what to do:
•?Back away slowly while facing the animal.
•?Leave the wolf a way to escape.
•?Pick up small children without bending down.
•?Raise your voice and speak firmly.
•?If the wolf approaches or acts aggressively, wave your arms and make yourself look larger. Shout, make noise and throw any available objects.
•?In the unlikely event that you are attacked by a wolf, fight back. Try to remain standing and use rocks, sticks, tools, camping gear, and your hands to fend off the attack. Keep the animal away from your neck and head.
Finding a Wolf Carcass
In the event you find a wolf carcass, take the following steps.
•?Do not move or disturb any evidence.
•?If possible, cover the carcass with a secured tarp to preserve it.
•?Call USFWS or ODFW immediately. Timely investigation is necessary to confirm the cause of death.
For more information visit https://dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/human_interactions.asp.