SALEM, Ore. — Imagine camping in the forest near Oregon's towering Mount Hood, and hearing wolves howling.
That prospect became more real on Wednesday when state wildlife officials announced that two wolf pups were seen near the mountain for the first time since wolves were exterminated from the state nearly 70 years ago.
A remote camera on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, whose boundary lies some 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Oregon's highest mountain, captured images of two pups on Aug. 10, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Wednesday. The department's web site showed a photo taken Aug. 19 of a wolf sitting in grass, looking at two wolf pups whose coats are light brown. One of the pups is looking straight at the camera and seems to be sniffing at it.
Environmentalists celebrated the news.
"Today, we let out a huge howl knowing that a wolf pack is rightly back on the landscape around iconic Mt. Hood after the species was systematically exterminated decades ago," said Josh Laughlin, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands.
The images mark the first known reproduction by wolves in the northern part of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon since wolves began returning to the state in the past decade, said the state wildlife department, which is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to monitor the wolves.
Wolves in the western two-thirds of the state are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, and the sighting falls within that area.
Cascadia Wildlands said the state needs to ensure strong state and federal protections remain in place for recovering wolves "so they can continue to re-occupy their historic territories across Oregon."
It said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is years overdue in revising its Wolf Plan, which guides recovery in the state. The environmental group said it will be present at a stakeholder meeting for the Wolf Plan revision, being held Thursday in the town of The Dalles.
The state wildlife department said Fish and Wildlife Commissioners decided earlier this year to postpone adopting a final Wolf Plan in hopes of getting consensus from stakeholders. Some ranchers in eastern Oregon have seen livestock being killed by wolves. There have been several instances of wolves being poached.
The state wildlife department has said it will reissue a "limited duration kill permit" to a rancher who recently lost a calf to wolves, the fourth depredations to his livestock in northeast Oregon since June. The new permit will allow the rancher or his agent to shoot one wolf on his public land allotment occupied by his livestock.
State wildlife biologists counted 124 wolves in Oregon this past winter, an 11 percent increase over the number counted last year.