The gray wolf has been absent from Oregon and much of the West for nearly 70 years which can be attributed to a systematic eradication program. Seen as incompatible with ranching interests and the settlement of the West, the gray wolf was trapped, poisoned and shot by state and federal governments and private bounty hunters to the point of near extinction. The species has been listed on the federal Endangered Species Act since the 1973.
To expedite recovery in the Rocky Mountains, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency in charge of recovering endangered species, seeded central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park with 29 gray wolves from nearby Canada in 1995 and 37 more in 1996. The response has been astounding. Best estimates suggest there are 1,650 wolves living in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho today.
In 1999, three wolves journeyed into Oregon from Idaho. One was shot and killed, one was hit by a car and killed, and the other was tranquilized and sent back to Idaho. Because the state has a statutory obligation under the Oregon Endangered Species Act to recover the gray wolf, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife convened diverse stakeholders to generate a gray wolf recovery plan in 2003. During the planning process, Cascadia Wildlands mobilized community members across the state, testified at hearings, hosted presentations and submitted official comments on the plan. The plan was adopted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2005 and set recovery goals for the species in both eastern and western Oregon. Currently, five packs of wolves reside in eastern Oregon, which are comprised of approximately 40 animals. Although unconfirmed, there are regular reports of wolves sighted across much of the state.
December 2010: Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife footage of the Imnaha Pack