‘Wolf’ sightings not real deal, officials say

Sean C. Morgan

Despite Facebook posts and some discussions to the contrary, none of the wolf sightings reported to Linn County Animal Control or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife last week were actual wolves, according to wildlife officials.

Sweet Home Facebook members last week discussed several sightings around Foster and east of Sweet Home. ODFW fielded two reports of wolf sightings, and Linn County Animal Control clarified discussions about whether it had released wolves in the Foster area. One post, shared several times on Facebook, reported that the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife had released an “alpha male” in the Quartzville area.

Linn County Animal Control posted this on its Facebook page: “On Feb. 9, we were in the Foster area on a call for possible wolf hybrid dogs running in the area. We successfully caught the dogs and they are currently here at the shelter and doing fine. There have been several posts floating around stating it looked like we were releasing the dogs in the area, which is not the case. We never release animals into the wild.”

Nancy Taylor, an ODFW wildlife biologist based in Corvallis, said “a couple” of wolf sightings were reported.

“One took photos, and one described a wolf’s behavior.”

Taylor forwarded the information to an ODFW wolf expert on the east side of the state for evaluation.

“That is not a wild wolf,” was the response, Taylor said. “It has some of the characteristics of a wolf, (but) it does not act like a wolf.”

In one case, the wolf was reported to have been hanging out in the same spot examining a parked car, Taylor said, while in the other, the person reporting it was able to take four photographs.

“They stopped within feet of the animal,” Taylor said.

The animals were hybrids or dogs, she said.

ODF&W received the report with photos on Feb. 6 and the second report on Feb. 8.

“We have no documented wolves on this side of the hill,” Taylor said. ODF&W has had some reported sightings on top of the crest.

The population of known wolves is below 100 in Oregon, she said, mostly in eastern Oregon.

A 2014 ODFW map places the majority of the population in the northeastern part of the state and a smaller population of seven wolves in the south, east of Grants Pass and Medford and west of Klamath Falls and Highway 97.

Seeing a wolf on the west side of the Cascades is certainly possible. One particular male has been traveling around the state.

ODFW reported in October that the radio-collared wolf, which had last been seen near Prineville, had appeared again in the Cascade Mountains north of Klamath County. The wolf had been collared in February 2010 and left his pack in May 2011.

In August, the ODFW designated two new areas of known wolf activity, including the Sprague wildlife management unit in Klamath County and another in the Starkey and Ukiah wildlife management units in Union County.

The ODFW reported a population of at least 81 wolves as of 2014, including 10 known packs and several known wolf pairs. None of the packs were “breeding pairs,” meaning they had at least two pups in spring 2014 that survived through Dec. 31, 2014.

As of July 2015, ODFW was tracking 16 known packs or groups of wolves in Oregon, and at least 13 of those had reproduced in summer 2015.

ODFW removed the wolves from the state Endangered Species List in November, although the gray wolf remains listed on the the federal Endangered Species Act.

The state’s management plan is to have seven breeding pairs on each side of an east-west boundary defined by highways 97, 20 and 395. Once they reach those levels, the plan is to keep them from declining below five breeding pairs.

The wolf program cost $641,000, funded by state and federal dollars, for the 2013-15 biennium.

Wolf sightings may be reported online at dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/wolf_reporting_form.asp or calling the South Willamette Watershed District Office at (541) 757-4186.