OR7: First Wolf to Roam California in Nearly a Century Is Back in the State
• Three-Year-Old Male Survives against Great Odds as He Searches for Mate and Domain
BY ANNE SOBLE
After a three-week visit to his home state of Oregon, the wild wolf OR-7 returned to California on April 1 and, as of this week, is still in northeastern Siskiyou County. Interestingly, this is where the nearly three-year-old male wolf first crossed into the state on Dec. 28, to become the first documented wild wolf in California in almost a century.
Oregon wildlife biologists named the hardy and healthy young wolf OR7 because he is the seventh wild wolf that was born in that state. They note that his travels are normal behavior by a young wolf in search of a mate.
Thus, there was no surprise when he did not find a mate in California that OR7 crossed back into Oregon on March 6. Although some conjectured that OR7 might remain there where he could be more likely to encounter a female wolf that is also leaving its biological pack, the wolf had other ideas.
Now that OR7 has decided to resume exploration of the California border region that he has traversed several times, few are willing to wager on what he will do next. That he has severed all ties with his family pack established by transplanted wolves from Idaho that are part of a federal reintroduction effort that began in 1995 is unlikely.
In addition to the wolf's scientific name OR7, a children's competition by the group Oregon Wild settled on the nickname of "Journey," which is particularly appropriate since the wolf's pioneering travels have taken him well over 1000 miles.
The federal Endangered Species Act protects all wolves. OR7's dramatic story encompasses the struggle of these animals as they seek to reclaim their place in the American West and return a centuries-old natural balance to the wilderness environment.
Now that the wolf is back, the California Department of Fish and Game is again posting updates on OR7's—or Journey's—sojourn on its website, courtesy of the GPS collar he wears. The posted location is purposely lacking in specifics and delayed by at least 12 hours to protect the animal from those who might harm him. There are reports there is an underground bounty on his head, in addition to the numerous natural perils a lone young wolf faces daily.
The DFG updates on OR7 and other myth-busting wolf information are available at its website at: www.dfg.ca.gov/wolf
If not for the GPS collar, it might appear that almost no one would even know that the wolf is in the state. No photos have been taken and no sightings have been verified during its two trips in the last five months.
That OR7 roamed more than 1000 miles across Oregon and traversed as far into California as Susanville in Lassen County, is noteworthy, but not exceptional. Travels upwards of over 4000 miles by wolves have been documented.
But that the wolf did so, apparently, without being seen by any humans and without harming any livestock or other domestic animals is unusual.
Biologists in both states view OR7 as a smart and resourceful navigator who virtually retraced his path through California on his return to Oregon and then back into the state two weeks ago.
In addition to the public agencies charged with protection of wildlife, the organization Defenders of Wildlife says one of its primary objectives is "to ensure wolves continue to remain safe in their historic range."
DOW helped draft Oregon's landmark wolf compensation and coexistence laws and expects to offer its assistance in California on these same issues.
Monitoring scat and other field studies appear to indicate that OR7 is eating deer, which is abundant in California, rather than elk, the mainstay of the Oregon wolf diet.
These studies so far are unable to ascertain whether OR7 is taking out live animals, feeding on carcasses downed by larger predators, or finding livestock remains discarded by ranchers who don't properly dispose of their dead animals.
Either way, OR7 is eating well and apparently remains focused on survival, the objective of finding a mate, and deciding where to establish territory.
While he does, OR7 has captured the imagination of thousands who cautiously follow the prospects of the environmental regeneration of his species in the land where the wolf's vocalization once was synonymous with the call of the wild.