Poaching Concerns: Oregon Wolf Population Stagnates Despite Conservation Efforts

PORTLAND, OR – Concerns are mounting over the stagnation of Oregon’s gray wolf population in the aftermath of a year marred by poaching incidents and suspicious deaths. The latest report from the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management unveiled a troubling revelation: the state’s wolf count did not increase at all in 2023, remaining stagnant at 178, marking the first year of zero growth in 16 years. The meager growth between 2021 and 2022 also fell short, drawing criticism from conservation groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, who labeled the lack of progress as a “tragedy.”

The report sheds light on a total of 36 wolf deaths in 2023, with 12 confirmed as illegal killings. Disturbingly, among the fatalities were cases of poisoning, with one incident in November claimed to be in self-defense by a hunter fearing for his life. The discovery of three dead wolves near Bly in February prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible, underlining the urgency of addressing the growing threat to the wolf population.

The rampant poaching and unexplained deaths have raised alarms within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), with Bernadette Graham-Hudson, ODFW wildlife division administrator, highlighting the detrimental impact on conservation efforts. Regrettably, eight wolves were put down in 2023 due to repeated livestock predation, a scenario complicating the delicate balance between conservation needs and farmer concerns in northeastern Oregon. Despite implementing non-lethal methods, livestock depredation surged by 27%, posing a significant challenge to managing wolf-livestock conflict in the region.

In response to the escalating crisis, ODFW collaborates closely with Oregon State Police, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, and the Protect Oregon’s Wildlife-Turn In Poachers partnership team to combat the escalating threats facing the wolf population. While wolves remain protected statewide, except in cases of defending human life, the importance of reporting any wolf-related incidents to authorities cannot be overstated.

The dwindling wolf numbers and rising instances of illegal killings underscore the pressing need for enhanced conservation efforts and stricter enforcement of wildlife protection laws in Oregon. As stakeholders strive to navigate the delicate balance between wildlife preservation and human interests, the fate of the state’s wolf population hangs in the balance, necessitating swift and decisive action to safeguard these majestic creatures for future generations.