One-Year Anniversary Of California's Lone Wolf

Wolf OR7 has successfully lived in northeast corner of state

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Last Friday, California’s only documented wild wolf, a young male known as OR7, officially hit the one-year mark since his arrival in the Golden State. OR7 crossed into California on Dec. 28, 2011 northeast of Dorris, a small town in Siskiyou County.

Before OR7 arrived, the California Department of Fish and Game reports, the last confirmed wild wolf was killed in 1924, in Lassen County, not far from where OR7 spent most of the last year. We know what day he entered the state because his radio collar transmits his whereabouts. We also know he was born to a pack in eastern Oregon and the migration trail to California.

Although it’s possible he’s with other wolves that don’t have radio collars, it appears he is alone. As far as we can tell he’s kept himself out of trouble, apparently surviving without any run-ins with domestic livestock.

Maybe 2013 will be the year when other wolves follow his footsteps and reclaim California as the wolf habitat it was. Or maybe the wolves will surprise us and we’ll learn that others without tracking collars are already here.

Wolves are only one of the California native species driven to extinction by the spread of human development. Long gone are the grizzly bears. Gone are some salmon runs wiped out by the damming of the state’s rivers. Sea otters were almost wiped out, but for a handful that evaded detection in the remote kelp beds off the Big Sur coast.

Wolf OR7 reminds us that at least in some cases, it’s possible to restore key parts of the natural world we have destroyed. So far California has shown this wolf a little more tolerance than wolves in a few other western states experience. Hopefully OR7 will continue to live freely and out of conflict with humans.

John was Earthjustice’s Media Director and chief press wrangler from 2001 until 2013. He came to Earthjustice in 2001 to defend freshwaters and public land—and salmon.