OREGON — It’s probably only a matter of times before wolves move into the Coast Range and become part of life for coastal residents.
Biologists have found evidence of wolves in Coos County and say the predators were likely responsible for killing nearly two dozen sheep in Curry County last month near Langlois. It’s part of an uptick in wolf activity in Western Oregon documented in a report released this week by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
“We have found probable depredation in Curry County,” said ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy in response to a media inquiry. “They are probably in Coos County, but we don’t have a resident population. While we do not know of current resident wolves in the Coast Range, there have been sightings all over the state including the Coast Range.”
Wildlife officials are loath to predict what wolves will do, but acknowledge the apex predators used to dwell in coastal areas and may come back.
Wild wolves are increasing in Oregon generally. The latest statewide count shows a 10 percent increase from last year, with 137 of the animals showing up in wintertime tallies by wildlife officials.
Among the highlights of the report:
Wolf shooting is down
The unlawful killing of wolves was down to two animals last year, from four killed illegally in 2017. A juvenile wolf near the border with Washington was shot and a radio-tagged female from the Mount Emily Pack was killed on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Law enforcement officials continue to investigate these killings, with rewards ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 for information leading to convictions.
Livestock deaths are up
Livestock kills by wolves increased 65 percent in 2018, according to the ODFW report. Confirmed wolf kills included 17 calves, one llama and two livestock guard dogs among 28 incidents of depredation. Most of these were
The reintroduction of wolves into western states and their slow but steady spread has been controversial. Conservationists have heralded the return of elusive canine packs they say are good for the ecosystem overall. But ranchers, some hunters and
With plenty of forest cover and healthy deer and elk populations for food, the coast can — and likely will — support wolves, researchers believe. The debate on the animal’s effect on the environment and human endeavor is staged to move closer to home as the predators continue to reclaim old territory and the federal government moves to delist the gray wolf, placing management of the species in the hands of the states.