One of the wolves recently spotted on Mount Hood has died.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed to OPB that a 1.5-year-old male wolf from the White River pack died near Highway 26 in November.
The wolf had been fitted with a radio tracking collar in October.
A necropsy done by the Oregon State University veterinary lab found no bullets, poison or evidence of foul play. The animal was very thin and had an injury on its front paw, according to John Stephenson of USFWS, but what caused its death is unclear. Stephenson said capture-related trauma from the radio collaring cannot be ruled out as a possible factor.
Wolves were first spotted near Mount Hood last January, after first returning to the eastern corner of the state in 2000. As of last year, there were an estimated 124 wolves in Oregon.
While wolves east of Highway 395 have been removed from the Endangered Species Act and are now under state management, the wolves on Mount Hood and other areas in Western Oregon remain federally protected.
Oregon Wild issued a statement on the wolf's death, calling the state's wolf recovery efforts "two steps forward, one step back."
"The loss of this wolf is more significant, as it is from one of only two known packs outside of NE Oregon. It emphasizes that this is still a small, fragile population, 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 environmental group said.
Biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Warm Springs reservation have documented five wolves in the White River pack on Mount Hood, at least two of which are pups from 2018. Stephenson said the dead wolf was not the pack’s breeding male.
He said biologists will attempt to collar another member of the pack in the spring.