Wolves Come Home to Oregon

For a state that prides itself on its natural legacy, the extermination of wolves is one of our greatest conservation tragedies. Their return represents an opportunity at redemption. Oregon Wild continues to advocate for the restoration and thoughtful management of Oregon’s recovering wolf population.

After an absence of over half a century, wolves have started making a cautious return in the early 2000s. As of 2022, wildlife officials documented at least 178 confirmed wolves in the state. While this progress is cause for celebration, scientists estimate that, based on available habitat and prey, Oregon could support up to 1,450 wolves. We still have a long ways to go to achieve full statewide recovery.

Oregon Wild advocates for wolf restoration in Oregon by:

  • Providing important input and watchdogging implementation of the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. This plan guides the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on all management decisions.
  • Stopping harmful state legislation that undermines wolf recovery. Oregon Wild advocates for strong legislation that combats poaching, supports habitat connectivity, and funds critical non-lethal programs.
Wolves were once the most widely-distributed mammal, occupying most of the western hemisphere. A deliberate effort to eradicate the species was successful by the late 1940s.
New breeding female of the Wenaha Pack for 2019, captured on remote camera on U.S. Forest Service land in northern Wallowa County in December, 2018. Photo by ODFW.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
The Road to Recovery
1947 – 1999
  • An early photo of a timber wolf taken sometime between 1900 and 1940 at the Three Lynx Camp, about 25 miles southwest of Mount Hood. The envelope credits the image to N.W. McMillen.

    Last recorded wolf bounty paid out in Oregon

    In 1843 the first wolf bounty was established and Oregon’s first legislative session was called in part to address the “problem of marauding wolves.” By 1913, people could collect a $5 state bounty and an Oregon State Game Commission bounty of $20.

  • Dallas Lore Sharp (kneeling with pan and wearing a cap) and four unidentified men preparing a meal in their campsite in the Wallowa Mountains. Oregon Historical Society

    Wolves locally extinct in Oregon

  • Wolf Track by Wally Sikes

    The first wolf in Oregon in nearly 50 years

    The wolf B-45, informally called “Freedom” by many conservationists, crossed the Snake River and became the first confirmed live wild wolf in Oregon in about a half a century. She was born to Idaho’s Jureano Mountain Pack in 1997. Although she was soon returned to Idaho, her arrival marked an important first step for wolf recovery in Oregon.

2005 – 2008
  • 2005 Wolf Conservation Plan Cover

    The first Wolf Conservation and Management Plan

    The state of Oregon completed a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan – a way to guide wolf recovery and management in the state. Unfortunately, the Plan was weak, giving ODFW broad authority to kill wolves.

  • From left, a two-year-old male and the alpha female of the Imnaha pack. Image captured on trail camera in Wallowa Whitman National Forest, Wallowa County, on June 22, 2011. Photo courtesy of ODFW.

    A flurry of sightings in Northeast Oregon

    Several sightings led biologists to believe a number of wild wolves were living in Northeast Oregon near the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. A wolf found shot to death near La Grande in May 2007 clearly indicated wolves had arrived in the area.

  • Wolf pups. Wenaha Pack, May 30, 2012. ODFW

    The first wolf pups born in Oregon

    Pups born to a wolf named Sophie (B-300) marked the first wolf pups in nearly 60 years!

2011 – 2019
  • OR-7's travels through Oregon in search of a mate

    The Journey of OR-7

    OR-7 (Journey), a wolf from the Imnaha pack of Northeast Oregon, made international headlines when he crossed into Western Oregon and then California – marking the first wolf in the state in nearly a century! His incredible travels inspired many and became a symbol of hope and rewilding.

  • Wolves in snowy backcountry Oregon. By ODFW.

    Eastern Oregon wolves lose Endangered Species Act protections

    Due to an unprecedented congressional budget rider sponsored by Montana Sen. John Tester, wolves in Eastern Oregon lost their federal protections. Hours later,  Oregon used their new authority to kill two wolves and issue dozens of landowner kill permits at the request of the livestock industry. After peaking at 26 confirmed wolves, wolf recovery stalled.

  • Oregon wolf looking at the camera. By ODFW.

    Wolves lose state protections

    With only 78 known adult wolves in the state, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Commission decided to prematurely strip wolves of state Endangered Species Act protections despite what peer reviewed, independent scientists recommended.

  • OR7 at age 7. Remote camera image taken June 8, 2016 in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    HB 4040 passed

    Oregon Legislature passed HB 4040, a bill affirming the delisting decision. This unprecedented move was done to block conservation groups’ ability to overturn the decision in the courts.

  • Oregon wolf at night. ODFW.

    Wolf Conservation and Management Plan updated

    The update significantly eroded protections for wolves by lowering the threshold for when the state can kill wolves, removing requirements for non lethal conflict deterrence, and opening the door toward public hunting and trapping.

2020 – Now
  • Trail of wolf tracks in Oregon. Five wolves walked this trail. Wolves often walk in each others footsteps. ODFW

    Wolves lose federal protections

    Trump administration removed federal Endangered Species Act protections for most wolves in the nation, including wolves in Western Oregon.

  • Male wolf from Wenaha pack by ODFW

    Federal protections are reinstated

    A federal court reinstated federal protections that had been in place for gray wolves. Wolves are relisted as threatened and endangered in all or parts of 44 U.S. states and Mexico.

  • 2014 pup of the Wenaha wolf pack, Wallowa County. ODFW.
    The Future

    For many, wolves are a symbol of freedom, wilderness, and the American west, and Oregon’s wolf country contains some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Science continues to demonstrate the positive impacts of wolves on the landscape and the critical role played by big predators, and interest in their return is fueling tourism in Oregon’s wolf country and elsewhere in the west.

Key Staff

  • Danielle MoserWildlife Program Manager

Additional Resources

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