Male wolf from the Wenaha pack (photo by ODFW, 2010).

Press Release: Cascadia Wildlands Statement on Oregon’s 2022 Minimum Gray Wolf Population Count

April 18, 2023                                                                                   

Bethany Cotton, Cascadia Wildlands,; 503-327-4923

Mixed News for Oregon’s Wolves: Population Stalls Statewide While More Wolves Move West

Today, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) released its annual report of the minimum 2022 gray wolf population and pack count for the state, which shows a continuing pattern of very low growth. The 178 wolves documented in 2022 is only an increase of three wolves over year-end 2021 numbers, while the number of wolf packs increased from 21 to 24. The state’s minimum wolf population only grew by two wolves in 2021, from 173 to 175 wolves. The stagnant population numbers are a cause for great concern in a state with significant suitable –  yet unoccupied –  wolf habitat. Removal of state Endangered Species Act protections was predicated on an assumed steady population increase, an assumption that has proven false since 2020.

More positive aspects of the report include four breeding pairs documented in western Oregon and six wolf groups documented in the Cascades. Wolves in the western third of Oregon enjoy federal Endangered Species Act protections and are primarily managed by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It is deeply concerning that Oregon’s wolf population has essentially stalled for two years,” said Bethany Cotton with Cascadia Wildlands. “Humans remain the biggest threat to the recovery of this iconic native species, and we can and must do more to coexist and hold poachers accountable.”

Illegal killing of wolves remained extensive in Oregon and clearly played a role in the plateaued numbers. A minimum of seven wolves were illegally killed, a number called “unacceptable” by ODFW. Six of the seven cases remain under investigation. The seventh wolf was killed by a man who claimed he thought he was shooting a coyote, though the wolf was wearing a visible radio collar. Of the 20 documented wolf mortalities in 2022, 17 were caused by humans.

“Oregon’s wolves remain under threat – in large part driven by overblown and unscientific rhetoric from a small but vocal minority of anti-wolf voices,” said Cotton. “Unfortunately, state management is failing this species – it’s time to restore Endangered Species Act protections statewide.”

High resolution, public domain photos of Oregon’s gray wolves can be found here.