- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Environment
- Published: November 25, 2018
- Last Updated: November 25, 2018
Decades after they were run out of Western Oregon by human encroachment, wild wolves have found their way back to the Mount Hood wilderness, where they are breeding, hunting, and surviving.
Motion-activated trail cameras have captured images of wolves roaming, hunting, and, most recently, caring for their pups, marking the first time in decades that breeding wolves have taken up residence in the Mount Hood area.
The pups and their parents are known as the White River Wolves. They are being monitored closely by agency employees from Fish & Wildlife and the Forest Service - and welcomed with great enthusiasm by environmental activists.
"Today, we let out a huge howl knowing that a wolf pack is rightly back on the landscape around iconic Mt. Hood after the species was systematically exterminated decades ago," Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands, said in a statement released upon the release of the wolf pup images in August.
From "marauders" to legends
Thousands of wolves roamed Oregon wildlands prior to European settlement, but their numbers dropped to zero after many decades of anti-wolf policies that promoted heavy hunting and trapping of wolves. Early settlers put a bounty on wolves prior to statehood in 1859, and one of the first issues debated by the state legislature was the alleged problem of "marauding wolves." According to the preservation group Oregon Wild, the final wolf bounty was paid out to a hunted in 1947.
Wolves were reintroduced to Northeastern Oregon in 2009 and have been gradually establishing new territories in areas where prey is abundant. One lone male wolf with the bureaucratic moniker OR-7 traveled more than 1200 miles from Northeastern Oregon into Northern California, becoming the first wild wolf spotted in California in nearly a century. the legendary OR-7 has fathered an estimated 17 wolf pups since completing his epic journey across Oregon. A Newsweek profile of OR-7 suggested that this legendary individual has "has done more for his species than any other wolf."
Their numbers are greatest in Northeastern Oregon, but wolves have also found their way into the Siskiyou Mountain of Southern Oregon, and now the Cascades as well. Trail photos have captured the White River Wolves exploring the forests south of Mount Hood numerous times in 2018.
The following map from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife shows the known territory of the White River Wolves, a territory that is expanding as recovery continues.