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Trump administration ends ESA protections for gray wolves

The Rogue Pack and other gray wolves in Western Oregon are now under state jurisdiction after the federal government formally removed gray wolves in the lower 48 states from federal Endangered Species Act protection, according to a Monday press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

But no immediate impacts on wolf management are expected as the state of Oregon awaits conservation groups and the federal government to slug it out in federal court on the merits of the delisting that was announced less than three weeks before the President Donald Trump’s tenure ends.

Anticipated for more than a month, the move puts all of the state’s management of wolves under the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 15-year-old Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

The move lifts federal protections for wolves such as the Rogue Pack, which has the most livestock kills of any pack in Oregon — far more than needed for so-called “lethal removal” under Oregon’s plan.

“But don’t expect any immediate change to Rogue Pack management,” ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. “It will be business as usual.”

Previously, just wolves in northeast Oregon have been outside of federal ESA protections and under ODFW jurisdiction.

The move immediately lists wolves in Oregon’s new West Wolf Management Zone, which includes Southern Oregon, in phase one of recovery under the plan, which includes potential lethal removal.

According to a 2019 wolf count, 17 known wolves — including three packs — are in the West Wolf Management Zone, and 141 known wolves, including 19 packs, in the East Wolf Management Zone.

The Rogue Pack’s patriarch, OR-7, is believed to be dead, and his former mate is now denning with another male.

Based on confirmed depredation cases assembled by ODFW, the Rogue Pack has been responsible for 34 confirmed incidents since 2016. The most recent came in separate weekend kills of yearling steers on separate ranches in the Fort Klamath area, making it nine animals attacked in seven instances in less than two months.

That tally is three more than the Imnaha Pack’s 31 incidents between 2011 and 2016 in northeast Oregon, ODFW data show.

In 2016, aerial gunners authorized under the current Oregon wolf plan killed the last four members of the Imnaha Pack, including the patriarch, an aging OR-4, which was OR-7’s father.

OR-7 was a member of the Imnaha Pack when it was collared in 2011, before it left the pack in search of a mate across Oregon and Northern California, eventually forming the Rogue Pack.

Collared wolves in Oregon are named for their collaring sequence.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Associated press file photoFormer Rogue Pack patriarch OR-7 stands on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.