The long-playing saga of a lonely wolf named OR7 appears to have taken a happy turn, as the wandering young predator appears to have found a mate in Oregon's Cascade Mountains.
It's quite likely, also, that the pair is rearing cubs.
OR7 made headlines in 2011 when he traversed 700 miles of Oregon wilderness and crossed into California at the end of the year, becoming the first known wolf in California in nearly 90 years.
OR7, which was born to a pack in northeast Oregon, was presumed to have been searching for a mate and could not have known that there were no other wolves in California.
But he remained in California–except for a very brief trip back to southern Oregon–for more than a year, ranging across remote terrain in several counties.
Few knew what OR7 looked like. He was not photographed when he was tagged as a cub. But because of his romantic odyssey he developed many fans, including schoolchildren, who followed his progress on the Internet.
Finally, in March 2013, OR7 crossed back into Oregon, via Klamath County. He recently settled in the Oregon Cascades.
This week the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a news release with the headline: “Wolf OR7 may have found a mate.”
Biologists assume this is true based on images captured in early May, via remote sensor cameras on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, that showed a black female wolf in the same area where OR7 is located (bottom two images).
New images of OR7 also were captured by the same cameras (top image shows OR7).
“This information is not definitive, but it is likely that this new wolf and OR7 have paired up,” said John Stephenson, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf biologist. “More localized GPS collar data from OR7 is an indicator that they may have denned. If that is correct, they would be rearing pups at this time of year.”
If there are cubs, it will mark the first known wolf breeding in the Oregon Cascades since the early 20th century.
While not everybody is a fan of wolves, or their fairly recent expansion throughout the West, lots of people are rooting for OR7.
Stated the Defenders of Wildlife’s Suzanne Stone:
“This is a great sign of wolf recovery in the Pacific West, and indeed some of the most exciting news we’ve had since OR7 re-visited California back in February. This would be the first wolf breeding in the Oregon Cascades in nearly 100 years!”
Added Russ Morgan, wolf program coordinator for ODWF: “This latest development is another twist in OR7’s interesting story.”
The ODWF will not be able to confirm whether OR7 is a new father until June or later, when the agency performs its first pup surveys of the season.
To be sure, this is an interesting development, considering that at the end of last year, there were only 64 known wolves in Oregon, mostly in the northeast corner of the state.
–Photos showing OR7 (top) and his presumed new mate are courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife