Oregon's small wolf population has grown to 77, and dispersers have migrated from the northeastern corner of the state. The most famous disperser, OR-7, created the first wolf pack in southwestern Oregon in 70 years. Another disperser, OR-25, migrated west into Oregon's northern Cascades and is now heading south. OR-22 dispersed southward, arrived in agricultural Grant County, and had ranchers fretting.
This natural process of growth by dispersal can continue; the state has more habitat suitable for wandering wolves. But whether those dispersers - and the rest of the state's vulnerable wolves - will continue to receive needed protection is uncertain.
Oregon's wolf population has reached a milestone that kickstarts the consideration of whether to delist wolves from the state's endangered species act. Delisting wolves makes them easier to kill, and livestock producer associations and their lobbyists push hard for delisting, preferring killing over coexisting. They may get their way.
This year the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will review the state's wolf plan and decide whether wolves should be delisted. Oregon has a new governor, Kate Brown, and she is shaping the commission in a dangerous way. Oregon Wild, a conservation organization, reported recently that Brown "struck a deal that would replace two Commissioners who have backgrounds in biology with special interest appointees who represent the very industries the agency is supposed to regulate." Packing the commission increases the odds that science will be ignored, special interests will be heard, and wolves will be delisted. The governor may find less resistance to such shenanigans because a budget of another watchdog organization, Cascadia Wildlands, is drying up.