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California’s lone wolf is still in the state!

The gray wolf known as OR-7, which is the only wolf known to be in the state of California, has moved to a lower elevation with the approach of winter. The wolf, the first recorded in California since 1924, briefly returned to Oregon in March and then returned to California. According to California Department of Fish and Game program manager Karen Kovacs, winter storms lashing the high country south of Mount Lassen have forced deer populations to lower elevations, and OR-7 (nicknamed “Journey” in a children’s contest) followed them.

OR-7’s GPS tracking collar places him in the oak-chaparral woodlands east of Red Bluff, California, his first visit to that kind of environment, according to Kovacs. The Sacramento Bee says:

The wolf gained celebrity after leaving its home ground in northeastern Oregon more than a year ago and journeying hundreds of miles across eastern Oregon, down the Cascade Range to Northern California in search of a mate. Shortly after he left, the state put a death sentence on two members of his pack for killing cattle, but that has been held up by a lawsuit brought by conservation groups.

Kovacs estimated that OR-7 weighs 100 to 110 pounds, with paws measuring 5-by-5 inches.

“He is feeding well, he is able to travel well,” said Kovacs.

He has the distinction of being the only known wolf in California in nearly a century. When OR-7 crossed into California a year ago, Oregon had counted 29 wolves within state boundaries. That number has grown to 54 with a count of 25 new pups.

While in California, OR-7 switched from his normal prey of elk to the more abundant deer, swam across the Klamath River several times, has not crossed major highways and has turned back several times when he approached Interstate 5. The wolf is 3 1/2-years old, past the midpoint in the 5-7-year life of wolves in the wild, and apparently he has not yet found a mate. The batteries in his GPS collar are expected to dies in a little over a year, and after that, his location may be unknown.

The migration route taken by OR-7 is a backcountry route that conservation groups were specifically trying to preserve through efforts to add wilderness protections and stop clear-cutting.

Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands, an Oregon conservation group, said he was optimistic OR-7 would meet a female that had also gone to California.

“It is promising to see that corridor functioning, and if it functions for one wolf, that means it will function for more wolves,” he said.

-Bill at

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