Wandering wolf will drop off map when his collar stops working

Lone wolf OR-7's very public and historic trek across Oregon and Northern California could come to a blipping halt any day now.

The Global Positioning System collar that has sent regular electronic pulses to reveal his travels for the past three years has eclipsed its normal life span, and state and federal biologists have no plans to replace it.

The risks to biologists and the wolf and priorities for collaring other wolves means 5-year-old OR-7 — named because he was the seventh wolf collared in Oregon — won't be recollared like his infamous alpha-male father, OR-4.

When his bling dies, his time working for Da Man will be over.

And when the final blip dies, so will the regular data followed by Oregon biologists and wildlife enthusiasts on six continents as OR-7 logged well over 3,000 miles before settling last year near Mount McLoughlin.

"As biologists, we tend to look at wildlife management from a population standpoint, not at individual animals," says Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the ODFW's Wolf Program. "But we were also impressed by all the interest this one wolf, OR-7, has created around the world."

Despite the dangers of collaring animals in the wild and the ethical question of whether collared animals truly remain wild, having an almost daily account of his travels proved not only useful but captivating, says Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild.

"A lot of people found parts of his story resonating with them because of that collar," Klavins says.

"When that collar dies, we'll never know his fate," he says. "But that could be OK. It's good to have a little mystery in the world."

— Mark Freeman

Read more in Thursday's paper.

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