Eastern Oregon received more confirmation last month that wolves are settling into the region. The news wasn't as startling as last April's headlines about wolves killing 24 sheep in Baker County's Keating Valley. Still it bolstered the case for legislation to allow ranchers to protect their livestock from wolf attacks.
The latest development came when Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials captured and radio-collared an adult wolf in the Imnaha area of Wallowa County. It was the second collaring for the state's wolf program; the first was a young male captured after the sheep deaths in Keating.
The July capture was a female dubbed B300 that had been tracked by radio collar as she migrated into Oregon from Idaho in early 2008. Her collar went silent in September 2008, and her fate was uncertain. While checking an area for pups in July, ODFW trapped an adult wolf that turned out to be the missing female. Biologists replaced her defunct collar and also confirmed she had borne pups - this season.
Clearly, wolves are rediscovering their comfort zone in Oregon. That's not surprising, given the experience in Idaho and Montana. Wolf populations in both of those states have recovered to the point that officials are establishing their first controlled wolf hunts since the near-extirpation of the species from the region more than a half-century ago.
While a cause for celebration by wildlife groups and an intriguing prospect for hunters, this hasn't been an easy transition for livestock owners. Wolves are considered reclusive hunters and shy of people, but some of these predators - often young adults seeking to establish their own territory - have found livestock too great a temptation to ignore.
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