The young, male, gray wolf from Oregon who has won worldwide fame while trekking across mountains, deserts and highways looking for a mate had his first close encounter with people this week.
A federal trapper, a state game warden and a state wildlife biologist were visiting ranchers in Northern California on Tuesday to notify them that GPS tracking signals showed the gray wolf known as OR7 was in the area, when they stopped to look over a sagebrush hillside with binoculars, said Karen Kovacs, wildlife program manager for the California Department of Fish and Game in Redding, Calif.
“There, all of a sudden, out pops a head, and there he is,” she said. “He appeared very healthy.”
Wildlife biologists know OR7 is the real deal because he sports a GPS tracking collar and has been monitored since he was in Oregon. He is the first known wild wolf in California in 88 years. Previous claims of wolves in the Golden State all turned out to be just coyotes, dogs, or wolf-dog hybrids.
The gray wolf’s return to the Golden State isn’t unexpected, state officials said, reported the SF Gate. In fact, he could go back and forth across the border many more times before settling down.
“Round and round he goes, where he ends up no one knows,” said Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Fish and Game. “At this point we know only where his little blip is, nothing about what he’s going to do.”
OR7, also known as Journey, left his Oregon home back in September and traveled more than 1,000 miles to California’s northern border. He entered Siskiyou County on Dec. 28, becoming the first known wild wolf in California in 88 years.
The wolf’s GPS tracking collar uses a map that traces his trek through northern California and can be viewed on the DFG website. To protect the wolf, public mapping of his movements are delayed.
GPS tracking data shows the wolf spent two months in Siskiyou, Shasta and Lassen counties, and his whereabouts have been tracked by wildlife managers in Oregon and California.