The wandering wolf that crossed the entire state of Oregon this fall is on the move again and now even closer to California.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Wednesday reported that the wolf known as OR7 is now south of Keno, Ore., a town less than 10 miles from the California border along Highway 97. If OR7 keeps moving south, he could become the first gray wolf confirmed in California in more than 90 years.
"There is no way to predict if OR7 will actually cross into California," Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the Oregon wildlife agency, said via email. "He could very well turn around and go right back to where he has been spending time in Klamath and Jackson counties the last month or so, or even back to northeast Oregon."
The 2-year-old male wolf migrated 730 miles across Oregon over two months beginning in September. He had spent the past month in an area of the Siskiyou National Forest, northeast of Medford.
Such dispersals are normal for wolves as they reach adulthood and seek a mate and territory of their own.
The progress of OR7 marks another success in the reintroduction of wolves to the West, begun in 1995 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. OR7's mother, in 2008, became the first wolf to return to Oregon after migrating from Idaho.
The California Department of Fish and Game has been preparing a planning document in case wolves do return to the state. That document is expected in January.
The gray wolf was exterminated in California, as in many other states, to eliminate a threat to livestock. The last known wolf in the state was killed by a trapper in Lassen County in 1924.
Though wolves still prey on livestock, biologists now recognize wolves also play an important role in managing deer and elk populations and, in turn, the health of the forests they live in.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October removed wolves from Endangered Species Act protection in most areas where they were reintroduced. Wolves dispersing into new areas are still protected by the act, however, including any that reach California.