Jan. 14–Another adult gray wolf is roaming territory in Oregon near the California border, joining the famous wolf known as OR7, which has established a pack in the area.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Tuesday announced the arrival of the latest wolf. It also released a photograph from a remote trail camera. The blurry photo shows an adult gray canine with its head just outside the frame.
John Stephenson, a wolf biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said fresh wolf tracks were also confirmed in the area where the photo was taken.
“The fact it’s been there for three to four weeks suggests it’s a resident in the area, but we don’t know that for sure,” Stephenson said. “It’s possible it’s still on the move.”
The location is a large wedge of land, between Medford and Klamath Falls, that includes private property and portions of the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest. The area is home to OR7, his mate and pups, which have officially been designated the “Rogue Pack” by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The male wolf OR7 made headlines worldwide when it migrated across the entire state of Oregon in 2012 in search of a mate. It entered California in December 2012 and spent a year roaming the state before returning across the border to Oregon. These events prompted the state of California to protect wolves under the state Endangered Species Act, although none are present currently.
Under federal law, all dispersing wolves, including those in Oregon and any that enter California, are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Once back in Oregon, OR7 met up with a female wolf and produced at least two pups last year. The female’s origins have not been pinned down, although DNA sampling of scat indicates she is related to wolves in northeast Oregon, as is OR7.
The new wolf occupies an area that has not been used by OR7 or his pack for some time. Officials plan to revisit the area soon in hopes of collecting more information, including tracks, scat and photos.
It is possible the new wolf reached the area by following a trail pioneered by OR7 or his mate. But Stephenson said he can’t confirm that yet.
“We really don’t know how it got there,” he said. “We assume it came from the east, either from northeast Oregon or Idaho. But we have no idea of when it came or how long it’s been in this area.”
Wolves were exterminated from California, Oregon and other Western states early in the 1900s. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced a number of gray wolves to Wyoming and Idaho. These animals produced offspring and formed new packs, eventually spreading into Oregon.
Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.