Wolf meanders between Jackson County and Northern California

Wandering gray wolf OR-7 is back on the trail locally as he spends the lion's share of this spring as perhaps the most famous resident of the mythical State of Jefferson.

The 4-year-old collared wolf has spent the past six weeks traveling in and out of Jackson County, venturing into eastern Douglas County before doubling back and earlier this week even returning briefly to California, where he flirted with Interstate 5 traffic for the first time.

GPS-transmitting equipment on his collar shows that, while in Northern California earlier this week, he crossed west over I-5 near Yreka, Calif. — venturing the farthest west he's gone in his 19-month odyssey, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Then just as quickly, he jumped I-5 again, biologists said today.

"Hopefully, he'll stop doing that," says John Stephenson, a USFWS biologist tracking OR-7 from his Bend office. "That's not a good strategy for longevity."

And Wednesday he headed back north, crossing into southeastern Jackson County where he was this morning in the hills south of Emigrant Lake east of Ashland, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Each time he enters California OR-7 reclaims his stature as the only known gray wolf in the Golden State since 1924. And when he slips back into Jackson County, he becomes the first known gray wolf west of the Cascades since the last was shot in 1937 to protect livestock.

"Man, that wolf can travel," says Mark Vargas, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District wildlife biologist. "The distances he's covering is amazing. He could be back in Siskiyou County (California) as we speak."

This pattern of toggling between Southern Oregon and Northern California is what OR-7 did last spring before crossing into California for what turned into an 11-month walkabout in his on-going search for a new home territory and a mate.

That trek took him east almost into Nevada before he did an abrupt about-face and virtually retraced his steps back into Jackson County on March 12.

— Mark Freeman

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