PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A family of four wolves was spotted wandering near the Confederated Tribe of Warm Springs in August, officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this week.

The family is made up of two adult wolves and two wolf pups. Because a pack is identified as “a group of four or more wolves traveling together in winter” according to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, this family will be considered the Warm Springs pack if there are still four wolves at the end of the year.

ODFW determined Jefferson and Wasco counties, where the tribe’s reservation is located, as an area of new wolf activity, based on the photos of the family.

“I’m so grateful this new family is making its home in a part of Oregon where wolves are still protected under federal law,” Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Illegal wolf killing is rampant in Oregon, so these animals need every possible safeguard. I hope this will be an exciting new chapter in the story of wolf recovery in the state, which is seeing wolves dispersing into territory where they haven’t lived for decades.”

Besides the recently-photographed family, there are three wolf packs that inhabit western Oregon, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, with most packs residing on the eastern side of the state. ODFW also confirmed a new pack with at least five pups on July 4, found in the Upper Deschutes wildlife management unit in Klamath and Deschutes counties.

Oregon’s wildlife agency assessed that the 2021 wolf population stood at 175 wolves in 21 packs, with 16 breeding pairs, by the end of the year. This number increased by just two wolves from the previous year. 

Furthermore, eight wolves were illegally poisoned last year in northeastern Oregon where there are no federal protections. There was another wolf killed in the same area in August. Although conservation groups have offered rewards of up to $50,000 for information on these crimes, they are still unresolved.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for Oregon’s wolves,” Weiss said. “With illegal wolf killings in eastern Oregon at all-time highs, having more wolves establish home territories and families in western Oregon will be crucial for the long-term survival of these beautiful animals.”

Learn more about Oregon’s wolf population here.