A lone gray wolf has wandered across the Oregon border into California in what wildlife officials say is the historic return of a species not seen in the state in more than 80 years.
The radio collar on the young male, known to biologists as OR7, indicated the animal crossed into the state around noon Wednesday, December 28. Authorities say the animal is in “dispersal” mode, wandering the rugged California-Oregon border to define a home range and searching for other wolves to establish a pack.
Biologists tracked the wolf’s position to a few miles south of the state line in Siskiyou County, the California Department of Fish and Game said.
GPS Collar Tracked The Wolf
A global positioning system collar was placed on the wolf in February. Its movement into California was widely anticipated as it approached the border just before Christmas.
From CBS News:
“Whether one is for it or against it, the entry of this lone wolf into California is an historic event,” said Department of Fish and Game Director Charlton H. Bonham, acknowledging the debate over the spread of wolves in the western U.S.
The GPS data put the wolf in California as of Wednesday. Officials said they would only provide general information about its location, since gray wolves in California are designated a federally endangered species.
The last confirmed wild gray wolf in California was killed in 1924 by a trapper protecting livestock. Conflict between wolves and ranchers across the West remains a key point of tension as reintroduction efforts in recent decades have led to the species’ spread.
Unclear If The Wolf Will Remain In California
Biologists caution that it’s too soon to know if the animal will stay in California. But because there is no known wolf presence in Northern California, they say, OR7 could very well return north to reunite with some of the 24 wolves believed to be in Oregon.
Wildlife authorities in both states have been monitoring the wolf’s peripatetic movements since September, when the 2 and 1/2-year-old set out from the Crater Lake area toward California. The young wolf, which frequently backtracked, had traveled nearly 800 miles by the end of November.
The fish and game department expects other wolves to arrive in California at some point as part of a slow wolf migration linked to the 1995 introduction of a Canadian gray wolf pack to Idaho and areas around Yellowstone National Park. Wolves first re-entered Oregon in 1999.
Wolves Unwelcome In Much Of The West
While the wolves in California will be under federal protection, state regulators said they have no wolf management plan and no intention to actively reintroduce the animals to the state.
Despite the fascination they hold for many, wolves have long been unwelcome in much of the West. Ranchers and hunters led efforts that nearly eradicated the predator in the lower 48 states by the 1930s.
Wolves began to repopulate in northern Montana in the 1980s and the animal was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. In the mid-1990s, 66 Canadian wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
As of last year, the Northern Rocky Mountain population had grown to an estimated 1,651 wolves. But that number is dropping in the wake of hunts approved in Montana and Idaho after Congress earlier this year removed endangered species protections over much of the population.
Photo Credit: mk_lynx