Researchers have snapped a photo of an adult wolf with five pups roaming the Oregon wilderness and say it could represent the establishment of a new wolf pack in the state.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife captured the image July 4 in the Upper Deschutes Wildlife Management Unit, which spans Deschutes and Klamath counties.

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ODFW had been monitoring the area after members of the public reported wolf sightings to the agency. Earlier this year, tracks of four wolves were found in the area. Since then, researchers have been trying to figure out whether the wolves represent a new pack or are wolves from the Indigo Pack to the south.

Researchers say they've identified a new Oregon wolfpack in Klamath and Deschutes counties. The photo is from a trail monitoring camera on July 4, 2022.

Researchers say they've identified a new Oregon wolfpack in Klamath and Deschutes counties. The photo is from a trail monitoring camera on July 4, 2022.

ODFW / Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

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“It’s heartwarming and joyful to see photos of this wolf family running through the forests of western Oregon,” Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Fortunately, these wolves live in a part of the state where they’re still protected under federal law, since their survival depends on those protections remaining in place.”

Wolves can be contentious in Oregon. Earlier this month, ODFW reported that wolves from the Rogue pack killed three livestock animals in private-land grass pastures near Fort Klamath. Wildlife advocacy groups say they’ve seen an increase in wolf-poaching cases in the recent years. ODFW encourages livestock producers to use “non-lethal measures” to reduce conflict with wolves.

At the end of 2021, there were an estimated 175 individual wolves in 21 packs in Oregon, with a total of 16 breeding pairs, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The center says there are only two other packs — the Rogue and Indigo — in the western and central parts of the state. The Rogue pack can be found in Jackson and Klamath counties; the Indigo pack spans Lane and Douglas. According to the center, an earlier western Oregon pack — known as the White River pack — ranged in the area south of Mount Hood. But those animals did not have sufficient numbers last year to qualify as an official pack. The potential Upper Deschutes pack has not yet been given a name.

“We’re still witnessing the early days of wolves returning to western Oregon,” said Weiss. “It’s so exciting to see these pups and their parents roaming free and healthy.”

Wolf sightings can be reported to ODFW at https://dfw.state.or.us/wolves/

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