Up in Oregon, where fierce environmentalism and the interests of ranchers have for years collided over what to do about the wolves, there is a good news story. The wolf population in the state is increasing. 

It’s not much, mind you, but it’s something positive. Oregon wildlife officials documented 110 wolves in 2015, up 36 percent from the year before. With 11 breeding pairs, as opposed to nine in 2014, there were 14 groups of wolves confirmed with a total of 33 pups born in 2015, according to the state’s 2015 Wolf Report.

The numbers come following a year that saw the animals removed from the state’s endangered species list, triggering a lawsuit from environmental groups. For decades, wolves have been killed to near extinction by ranchers because they attack livestock. 

Largely due to a compensation program where the state pays ranchers for lost livestock, as an incentive not to kill wolves, that the population has allowed to recover somewhat. 

“As predicted, Oregon’s wolf population has continued to expand its range and grow in number,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator in a press release. “While northeast Oregon continues to have the highest number of wolves, there is also continued movement of wolves into southern Oregon.”

Officials also report that the number of livestock lost to wolves decreased in 2015 despite the increase in wolf population, indicating that preventive measures are also playing a role. There were just 11 cases, almost all of them sheep, where wolves were to blame. 

In Oregon, killing a wolf carries a $2,000 fine.

© Mikael Males | Dreamstime.com – Female wolf and pups at den site