After drawing much public attention for his historic trek into California, the gray wolf designated as OR7 has turned north and crossed back into Oregon.
Originally part of a wolf pack in northeastern Oregon, OR7 wandered more than 1,062 miles in Oregon in September through December of last year before crossing into California Dec. 28, 2011. Gray wolves were extirpated in California the 1920s, leading to speculation that OR7 might be the first wolf to re-establish roots in the Golden State.
While in California, the wolf trekked south through eastern Siskiyou County, traveled through northeastern Shasta County and then resided in Lassen County for a few weeks. On Feb. 11 he re-entered Shasta County and then, about a week later, he crossed north into Siskiyou County. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has continued to monitor his whereabouts through the use of a satellite tracking collar, and has been updating his status at dfg.ca.gov/wolf.
DFG biologists who have been closely monitoring the wolf’s position and progress say they have been impressed with his ability to travel considerable distances into new territory and then return, following a different route, to locations he has previously visited (possibly through his use of scent-marking), sometimes after a few weeks have passed.
Over the past two months, DFG has received many telephone calls and emails reporting sightings of OR7, but nearly all of these reports were inconsistent with the satellite location data. Photographs and physical descriptions provided to DFG by the public were consistently determined to be an animal other than a wolf (usually a coyote in winter pelt). In some cases, the available information was insufficient to make any confident determination of the species observed. However, in the recent past OR7 may have been observed in northern Siskiyou County.
In at least one instance, private citizens photographed tracks likely to have been made by OR7. Some of those photographs are available for viewing on DFG’s website.
After traveling 900 miles in California (calculated as air miles, not the actual distance traveled, which was greater), OR7 crossed the state line from Siskiyou County and back into Oregon March 1. DFG biologists have described his behavior as dispersal, where a young wolf seeks to find a mate or another wolf pack. That search has not been resolved for OR7 in California and his next movements cannot be predicted with any certainty. It remains possible he will return to California in the future.