One of the few wolves that has taken up residence near Mount Hood has died, wildlife officials confirmed Monday.
The wolf was found in November near U.S. 26 and its cause of death was unknown, said Elizabeth Materna, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for wolf management in most of western Oregon.
A necropsy revealed no gunshot wounds nor poison, but the 1.5 year old male had an injury to its front paw, which could have occurred when the animal was captured and fitted with a radio collar for tracking, and it was quite skinny, Materna said.
The wolf’s death was first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Wolves are a relatively new presence the Northern Cascades, at least in recent times.
In early 2018, two grainy pictures marked the first confirmed sighting of multiple wolves in this area of the Cascade Mountains since the predators started returning to Oregon earlier this century. They had been eradicated in the 1940s.
In August, pictures captured by a trail camera confirmed that the wolves near Mount Hood had produced a litter of at least two pups. Wildlife officials said the wolf that died recently is not thought to be the breeding male.
At last count, Oregon had at least 124 wolves, mostly concentrated around Oregon’s epicenter of wolf activity in Wallowa, Umatilla, Union and Baker counties.
The wolf’s death comes as negotiations over the state’s wolf management plan have fallen apart. In January, environmental groups pulled out of talks before the last stakeholder meeting, saying that their proposals hadn’t been fairly considered and that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which managed wolves in the eastern part of the state where the animals are still listed as endangered, had acted improperly.
“Wolf recovery in Oregon continues to be two steps forward, one step back,” said Arran Robertson, a spokesman for Oregon Wild, in a statement. “The loss of this wolf is more significant as it is from one of only two known packs outside of (Northeast) Oregon.”
Oregon Wild is one of the conservation groups that pulled out of management negotiations.
“It emphasizes that this is still a small, fragile population,” Robertson continued, “something Governor Kate Brown and the ODFW Commission must keep in mind as they consider a wolf plan that diminishes protections for this native species.”
The wolf management plan is set to come before the agency’s commissioners for a vote in March.