The 730-Mile Journey Of One Oregon Wolf

California, here he comes? His search for a mate goes viral

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There’s nothing like a good road trip—you grab a handful of your favorite CDs, some snacks, a sense of adventure, and you’re off! Cruising down the open road, wind blowing through your hair, eyeballing heretofore unknown terrain, wondering who the heck lives in that little shack beside the highway in the middle of nowhere.

That’s how we humans do a road trip. But if you want to learn what a real road trip looks like, then you need to follow the saga of a gray wolf known to Oregon officials simply as OR7. Sure, OR7 could have grabbed his favorite Howlin’ Wolf album, packed some elk jerky and brought along his map of eastern Oregon.

But this dude is hardcore.

There’s no time for jamming out to tunes or fiddling with elk jerky when you’re trekking across the state of Oregon in search of a mate and a new place to call home.

OR7 was born two years ago to a wolf known as B-300, the first wolf to migrate from Idaho to Oregon back in 2008. A member of the Imnaha pack of northeastern Oregon, OR7 is fitted with a GPS collar that allows Oregon officials to track his daily location. Earlier this year, OR7 left his pack near the small town of Joseph, Ore., and traveled about 730 miles until stopping east of Medford in the southern portion of the state. He has spent the last three weeks lingering there in the Siskiyou National Forest.

Oregon’s wolf population is small, estimated at just 24. But those 24 wolves are the cause of all manner of consternation in northeast Oregon as Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Cassandra Profita reports here and here. As is the case in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, cattle ranchers in Oregon claim that their livestock are threatened by the wolves and hunters worry that elk populations will shrink. Both of these claims are rather dubious as elk populations have yet to see any decline and the number of livestock deaths attributed to wolves has been relatively insignificant.

What’s next for OR7? The Sacramento Bee speculates that he could make his way to California, marking the first time a wolf has stepped foot in the Golden State since 1924. The Bee’s story quotes the treasurer of the California Cattlemen’s Association who expresses concern about the possibility of OR7 entering California. One wolf. Not even in the state yet. And the cowpoke set is already atwitter.

Of course, wolf hysteria is nothing new. Right now, Earthjustice’s legal team is fighting to protect the wolves of Wyoming, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing elimination of federal endangered species protections. The move is part of a political compromise that will subject Wyoming’s wolves to predator status—which permits unlimited, shoot-on-sight killing—in nearly 90 percent of the state.

Perhaps the intriguing story of Oregon’s wandering wolf will prompt folks to rethink their perception of the animals. Maybe being able to admire and appreciate OR7 and the wildness of the wolf—its strength, its intelligence—is the best public relations ploy of all.

David Lawlor was a writer in the Development department. His environmental activism stems from an affinity for nature and the deep ecology philosophy espoused by the Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess.

The California Regional Office fights for the rights of all to a healthy environment regardless of where in the state they live; we fight to protect the magnificent natural spaces and wildlife found in California; and we fight to transition California to a zero-emissions future where cars, trucks, buildings, and power plants run on clean energy, not fossil fuels.