People Haven't Spotted These Rare Animals Here In 70 Years — Until Now

This is such great news 👏👏👏

People are very excited about an image captured on a wildlife camera in the woods of Oregon earlier this month.

At first glimpse, it seems like just a normal photograph of a family of gray wolves — two younger pups being dutifully watched by their mother — but the truly rare shot speaks to decades of effort working to return wolves to a location where they had totally vanished.

Wolf pups born on Mt. Hood in Oregon for first time in 70 years
Wildlife Department BNR-Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

Seventy years ago, gray wolves were wiped out of Oregon. Hunting and habitat loss decimated the population of wolves that had been inhabiting the region for centuries. 

But thanks to conservation efforts and protections from the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves slowly started to come back to the state. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have been working together to monitor the return of the wolves. In 2014, they spotted a male wolf and then spotted a female wolf two years after that — they realized these animals were probably mates. 

19th-Century painting depicting a wolf hunt
A 19th-Century painting depicting a wolf hunt | Wikimedia Commons

Now something has happened that hasn't been documented since the 1940s: Wolf pups were born in the Mount Hood habitat. 

"This marks the first known reproduction by wolves in the northern portion of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains since wolves began returning to the state in the 2000s," ODFW wrote this week

Wolf advocates are over the moon about the news. "The birth of these adorable pups represents an important milestone in wolf conservation," Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC), told The Dodo. "The gray wolf’s amazing comeback from the brink of extinction is a testament to the success of the Endangered Species Act — one of most successful bipartisan pieces of legislation our country has ever adopted."
The news is also particularly moving for Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. "Knowing wolves are back on Mount Hood is extra special for me," Fahy told The Dodo. "I moved there in 1977. I always dreamed wolves would someday reoccupy their historic niche in this majestic rugged landscape."

Wildlife Department BNR-Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

But wolf conservationists also know all too well the current, persisting threats facing these animals. "I am cautiously optimistic they will do well," Fahy added. "I wish I could say the same for the rest of Oregon."

While these pups are protected, in other regions, like the eastern part of the state, wolves are in competition with the ranching industry for land — with sometimes fatal consequences for the wolves. "Hunting wolves to control their population only creates more problems through social disruption of the pack," Fahy said.

Sometimes the state itself allows the killing of wolves, even though they've only recently come back. "Just last week, ODFW reissued a kill permit to a rancher in Wallowa County who lost a calf to wolves, allowing him to shoot one wolf from the Chesnimnus pack on his public land grazing allotment," Howell said. "This brings up very a serious question — should Oregon be allowed to kill wolves on America's public lands to benefit the profit margins of a private business?"

Despite the ongoing complications, people are still taking a moment to enjoy the good news, while looking to improve coexistence in the future. "It’s high time we strive to coexist with this iconic predator," Fahy said.

To help protect wolves, you can make a donation to Predator Defense and WCC