Wolves in the Pacific Northwest

Wolves in the Pacific Northwest

The story of wolves is old and increasingly entwined with humans.

1.8 to 2.5 million years ago
Wolves and coyotes depart from their shared ancestor, Canis leophagus, in North America; precursors to modern wolves migrate to Eurasia.

800,000 to 300,000 years ago
Canis lupus emerges in Eurasia.

130,000 to 100,000 years ago
Canis lupus migrates to North America from Eurasia.

13,000 to 9000 years ago
Continental ice sheet retreats from the Pacific Northwest.

14,000 to 8000 years ago
Pleistocene extinction event occurs at the end of the last period of glaciation; North America loses about half of its large mammal species.

10,000 to 8000 years ago
Dire wolves (Canis dirus) becomes extinct, and Canis lupus emerges as the dominant large social carnivore across North America.

early 1800s
First historical regional documentation of wolves eating salmon; a die-off of wolves in the Oregon Coast Range is attributed to a parasite which wolves contract from eating salmon.

Hudson’s Bay Company establishes fur trading posts in the Northwest.

Bounties are placed on wolves in the Oregon Territory.

1850 to 1900
Wolves become scarce across most of Washington and Oregon. Populations of elk and many other carnivores and game animals decline similarly across the region.

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt creates Olympic National Monument to protect remaining Roosevelt elk; wolves are already scarce in the Olympic Peninsula.

Oregon issues a moratorium on elk hunting; wolves are close to extinct in the state.

Last confirmed wolf specimen is collected in Washington State from the western side of the Olympic Mountains, though reliable sightings in the Olympics are reported in the 1920s, 1930s, and even as late as the early 1950s.

The last consistent reports of wolves in Oregon document them on the west slope of the Cascades.

Following the rebound of elk populations, Oregon initiates a carefully regulated elk-hunting season.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt expands Olympic National Monument into the current Olympic National Park.

Last bounty for a wolf in Oregon is paid for an animal taken from Umpqua National Forest on the western slopes of the Cascades in southern Oregon.

1950s to 1970s
Wolf populations in the Pacific Northwest probably hit their lowest levels and most contracted range. Wolves are functionally, if not completely, extinct from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and southern portions of British Columbia.

British Columbia’s wolf eradication programs destroy—either completely or nearly so—Vancouver Island’s wolf population.

Parvovirus is introduced into wild canids in North America from domestic dogs and is now endemic across the continent. Wolves begin reestablishing themselves in the southern portion of the Rockies in Canada following the abatement of control efforts in British Columbia and Alberta.

Wolves are listed as an endangered species and receive federal protection across the lower forty-eight U.S. states under the Endangered Species Act.

The North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana becomes the site of the first documented breeding pack to return to the northwestern United States, comprising wolves that had dispersed from over the border in the Canadian Rockies.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) documents a pack of wolves with pups during a howling survey at the north end of Ross Lake, in North Cascades National Park. Though evidence of wolves here continues sporadically, further documentation of breeding wolves in the area is lacking for the next two decades.

1995 and 1996
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) translocates wolves from the Canadian Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park.

The first wolf to disperse to northeastern Oregon from Idaho is documented, a female who is captured and returned to Idaho.

2000 to 2007
Three more wolves from Idaho are found dead in northeastern Oregon, two of them shot.

B300, a young female, is trapped and radio collared in western Idaho.

WDFW traps and radio collars the breeding male and female of what became Washington’s first documented pack, the Lookout pack, on the east slope of the North Cascades in north-central Washington.

Wolves are removed from the federal list of endangered species in the northern Rockies for the first time. Federal status as endangered continues in California and the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon. B300 and her mate, also from Idaho, establish Oregon’s first modern wolf pack—the Imnaha pack—in the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon. The Diamond pack is discovered as Washington State’s second confirmed pack.

Washington and Oregon estimate wolf populations of about thirty animals in each state. Idaho initiates an aggressive hunting and trapping season, reducing the state’s wolf population by about 50 percent.


Adapted from: Wolves in the Land of Salmon by David Moskowitz  Maps: created by Analisa Fenix/Ecotrust under a Creative Commons license and prepared for publication by Laken Wright.

 All wolves in the Pacific Northwest today originate from populations from the British Columbia coast and the northern interior of British Columbia and Alberta.

All wolves in the Pacific Northwest today originate from populations from the British Columbia coast and the northern interior of British Columbia and Alberta.

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