Just weeks ago, news that Oregon’s lone wolf OR-7 may have found love after years of wandering alone caused some big excitement for his fans and wolf advocates, but now there’s even more good news for both him and for gray wolves.
In May, hopes were raised that OR-7 had found a mate after he and an unknown black female were spotted by remote cameras in the same area of Oregon’s Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The sighting, and a decrease in his wandering, also raised suspicions that the two had denned somewhere and may have had a litter of pups who would have been born in April.
Yesterday, wildlife biologists from Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed in an announcement that OR-7 and his mate have indeed welcomed a litter of pups into the world. Only two pups were seen and photographed, but wildlife officials suspect there may be more.
The confirmation marks the first time wolves have been born in the Oregon Cascades since the early 20th century, making it another history-making adventure for OR-7. In 2011, the former loner became famous for becoming the first confirmed wolf west of the Cascades since the last wolf bounty was collected as part of a government-sponsored predator control program in 1947 and for being the first known wolf to venture into California since 1924.
Wolves once ranged widely in California but were persecuted, shot, poisoned and otherwise eradicated from the landscape almost 90 years ago. OR-7′s presence in the state raised hope that wolves would return, along with concerns about how the species would be managed if they did and the usual opposition from hunters and ranchers to giving them protected status.
The news that OR-7 has pups has raised even more hope from many that Oregon’s growing population will eventually make their way to the state and establish territories there. Thanks to the work of their advocates, they may now safely return.
Just after the pups were announced this week, California’s Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 to protect gray wolves under the state’s endangered species list, in spite of opposition and a recommendation from the Department of Fish and Wildlife against doing so.
According to the LA Times, commission President Michael Sutton summed up the outcome, stating: “There is no more iconic animal in the American West than this one. We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them recolonize their historic range in our state.”
The move to protect them was in response to a petition filed in 2012 by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations asking the commission to protect the species under the California Endangered Species Act to ensure their survival after OR-7 showed up there.
“This is a great day for wolf recovery in the West,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “I’m just so thrilled that we have a new wolf family in southern Oregon and that these beautiful animals are finally getting protection in California. This is the first chapter in a longer story of wolves returning to California and living here in the wild.”
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