My Love Affair with OR-7

I’ve been thinking a lot about OR-7 for the past couple of months. This particular handsome guy has also been making the news headlines recently.

OR-7 is a native Oregonian just like me. He was born in northeastern Oregon to the Imnaha gray wolf pack in the spring of 2009. In February 2011 when he weighed around 90 pounds, biologists named him OR-7 because he was the seventh wolf to be GPS radio collared in Oregon.

The founding members of the Imnaha pack migrated into Oregon from Idaho and were first documented in 2009. The Imnaha pack occupies the Imnaha River drainage east of the remote mountain town of Joseph, Oregon and near the beautiful Eagle Cap Wilderness where I backpacked last summer with my husband and a good friend.

The Imnaha pack, which had as many as 16 wolves in 2010, may now have as few as five animals. Several members died in 2011, and four radio collared wolves (including OR-7) have dispersed from the pack. On Feb 2, 2012 , OR-7’s brother OR-9, was poached in Idaho by a hunter with expired tags.

OR-7 headed out on his own in Sept 2011 to find a mate and new home territory. His satellite GPS has tracked him trekking more than 1,000 miles. He’s crossed highways, deserts, mountains and some private lands but most of his route has traversed public lands.

On November 14th, 2011 an animal thought likely to be OR-7 was photographed by a hunter’s trail camera while he was looking for deer. This was the first sighting of him.

Then something remarkable happened on Dec 28th, 2011: OR-7 crossed into Northern California. He was the first known wolf in California in 88 years. People took notice and school children from all over the world entered a contest to name him, the winning name was “Journey.”

He hung out in California for a couple of months and nobody saw him and still no reports of livestock attacks or public safety incidents along his path.

On March 1, OR-7 crossed back into his native Oregon. On March 5th he traveled back into California and then again back into Oregon on March 9th. He doesn’t know about state lines but is still protected in both states by the federal and state Endangered Species Acts. I’ve been following his moves every day but to protect his safety, the California Dept of Fish and Game is delaying the radio collar’s locations from the public. Oregon Wolves facebook page is a good one to follow.

Like some love affairs, this one might end tragically by the hands of illegal hunters, poachers, anti-wildlife ranchers or he might even get hit by a car while crossing one of the roads. His radio collar is expected to continue to function until at least 2014. If he survives until then or when we lose track of him, I sure hope he finds that mate and new home and his journey has a happy ending.

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