Oregon's wolf territory keeps expanding.
Earlier this month, a man in Jacksonville, Ore., Sam Dodenhoff, captured an image of the first confirmed gray wolf west of Highway 62 in Southern Oregon, the Mail Tribune reported. That's the furthest west a wolf sighting has been confirmed in Oregon since they were reintroduced to the state.
Dodenhoff's photo was taken on federal land, and was confirmed to have captured a gray wolf by a biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. There have been reports of possible wolves further west in Curry County, but Dodenhoff's is the first photographic evidence of southwestern expansion.
Derek Broman, a spokesperson for the ODFW, says that "more wolves and new locations is now a common occurrence for Oregon as the population has been growing for over a decade."
Expanding populations will likely reignite conflict between conservationists and livestock owners about how wolves should be handled. Last May, Oregon's top wildlife official signed on support for the federal delisting of the gray wolf from the endangered species list. But, after swift blowback, Gov. Kate Brown sent a letter to the federal government pulling back Oregon's support for delisting the animal.
Broman says the ODFW is in the process of conducting its annual minimum wolf count for the state, so it's too soon to say if this spotting indicates a growth in the state's wolf population.
"Bottom line, we continue to see more wolf sign in the Cascades and this is especially positive considering wolves are a federally-listed species in western Oregon," Broman says. "The one new observation likely isn't sufficient to evaluate the success of the Wolf Plan, but a growing population is an expectation of the Plan."