The famous wolf known as OR7 that spent many months traveling Northern California may have found a mate, and they may already be raising a litter of pups.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported Monday it has photographic evidence that OR7 has found a female companion somewhere in the states Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest region. Officials, following usual policy, wont reveal exactly where the two are located. But the agency has identified a large spear-shaped region of land as OR7s territory, stretching north from the California border between Medford and Klamath Falls.
In early May, the same remote cameras in the national forest captured images of a female wolf as well as the first images the agency has ever captured of OR7 himself. The coinicidence of these images, as well as data from the GPS collar worn by OR7, strongly indicate the two have mated, said Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the Oregon wildlife agency.
A recent relative lack of movement by OR7 also suggests the wolf couple has denned up and produced a litter of pups, especially given that the time of year is typical for mating.
Officials wont be able to confirm any of this until June or later the earliest that pup surveys are conducted so as not to disturb the young animals.
Wolf OR7 is so named because he was the seventh wolf to be radio-collared in Oregon. He became a media star when he traversed the entire length of Oregon late in 2011 in search of a mate. He then entered California in December of that year, becoming the first wild wolf confirmed in the state in 87 years, and spent much of 2012 wandering northeastern California in a circuitous path that eventually covered thousands of miles. He returned to Oregon in March 2013, but remained near the California border and has repeatedly crossed back and forth.
Deepening the mystery, Dennehy said her agency has no idea who the female wolf is that has joined up with OR7. It is not one of the 64 known wolves it is monitoring in the state.
Its an uncollared wolf, so we dont know anything about her at this point, Dennehy said. Most known wolves are in northeastern Oregon. But as weve always said, other wolves make this kind of trek. Its entirely possible there could have been other wolves in the Cascades or even in Northern California.
The two wolves are in an area where they are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.
The possibility of a wolf family in southern Oregon is likely to make additional wolf movements into California more likely. At its meeting in April, the California Fish and Game Commission postponed for 90 days a decision on whether to protect wolves under the state Endangered Species Act.
Call The Bees Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.