New photos of the famous wolf known as OR7, who roamed California for more than a year, confirm that he and his mate are raising at least three pups, not just two.
The black and white photos were taken July 12 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using a remote camera in the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest. It is there, in the woods somewhere between Klamath Falls and Medford, Ore., that OR7 and a mysterious female wolf produced a litter of pups.
The first photos of the pups, released in June, showed only two, although biologists suspected there were more because wolf litters are often larger.
The new photos show two gray pups on a dirt road. Together with a darker pup photographed earlier, that makes three unique pups that have been photographed so far, said John Stephenson, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who captured the photos.
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“We can confirm we’re up to three pups,” Stephenson said. “They look like they’re doing well, as far as we can tell from the photos.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service also released new images of the pups’ mother, although they are still puzzled about where she came from. Unlike OR7, she is not radio-collared and was not previously known to wildlife officials. The sequence of photos show her carrying something in her mouth, possibly food for the pups.
Stephenson said the pups are probably about 3 months old now.
“The pups are getting big enough now to where they’re more mobile,” he said. “They’ve left the area where they originally denned in April and May, and they’re going to rendezvous sites, as we call them, where the pups stay while the adults go out and get food for them.”
OR7 captivated the world when he migrated south across Oregon, dispersing from his home pack in search of a mate and territory of his own. He crossed into California in December 2011, becoming the first wild wolf in the state in nearly 90 years. He eventually rambled more than 3,000 miles through the northeast quadrant of California, before crossing back into Oregon and miraculously finding a mate.
The presence of the wolf family just over the state border makes it more likely that wolves will eventually take up residence in California. With that possibility in mind, in June the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect wolves under the state Endangered Species Act.
Officials plan to attach radio collars to members of OR7’s family, which would be done by trapping them. Stephenson said that probably won’t happen until later this summer or in the fall, when the pups are older.
“They seem to be doing good, and they are staying out of trouble,” he said. “There are livestock up there and there hasn’t been any problems with attacks on livestock, so we’re happy about that. It seems like things are going along good.”