PENDLETON, Ore. — Researchers have found that Oregon wolves from different packs are breeding, signaling that necessary genetic interchange is taking place.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered this week that a wolf born into the Imnaha pack is the breeding male in the Wenaha pack, while the most recently collared wolf — OR-16 — has joined the Walla Walla pack, The East Oregonian reported Wednesday.
State wolf coordinator Russ Morgan said while the discovery of a wolf born into one pack successfully reproducing in another is not groundbreaking, it does show that packs are dynamic and change over time.
“New individuals come in and individuals go,” Morgan said. “This is the first time we’ve been able to genetically show it. This is a confirmation of the necessary genetic interchange among packs, and that is a good thing.”
There are now six packs in eight different areas of the state, with wolves in some areas not in a big enough group to yet be considered a pack.
The discovery was made through analyzing scat from Wenaha pups. Each time a wolf is caught and collared by the state agency, a genetic sample is taken, Morgan said. The department confirmed with a genetic sample that OR-12 is the progeny of OR-2 and OR-4 of the Imnaha pack.
When OR-16 was collared, Morgan said the male yearling was a total mystery.
“We didn’t know who he was,” Morgan said.
The 85-pound wolf was caught accidentally by U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service personnel Nov. 1. The animal was fitted with a GPS collar, providing department biologists more detailed information regarding the wolf’s location, which paid off.
Satellite downloads show OR-16 traveling with OR-10, a female yearling in the Walla Walla pack.