GRANTS PASS, Ore. - Oregon has its first wolf pack since the predator was wiped out by bounty hunting a century ago.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf coordinator Russ Morgan heard at least two adults and two pups answer his howls under a bright moon in the pre-dawn hours Friday on the Umatilla National Forest in northern Union County.
"After searching and monitoring and surveying for two years, doing this - to actually confirm multiple wolves - was a bit of a surprise," Morgan said from his office in La Grande. "We are talking about a very rare animal in the state of Oregon. That makes locating them difficult. It is satisfying to see part of that effort pay off."
Morgan added that biologists would be keeping close watch over the wolves as part of Oregon's plan for allowing them to roam free without causing undue harm to livestock.
Biologists have long expected that wolves would spread to Oregon after they were reintroduced to Central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1995. The Idaho wolf population numbers more than 500, and young wolves leave the pack and strike out for new territories rather than overcrowd an old one.
To get to northeastern Oregon, they can swim the Snake River or walk across a bridge or dam. At least five wolves are known to have reached Oregon since 1999.