OR-7 back in state but still movin'

    The wandering lobo known as OR-7 is back in his native Oregon after nearly a year traversing Northern California in search of a new home and a mate.

    The GPS-collared gray wolf apparently crossed the California border into western Klamath County sometime Tuesday night, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

    Originally from Eastern Oregon's Imnaha pack, OR-7 in 2011 became the first documented wolf in Western Oregon in 65 years. Last winter, he toggled between Southern Oregon and Northern California, becoming the Golden State's first documented wolf since 1924.

    "This is not a surprise," ODFW wolf program spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. "He has come back before.

    "We're not predicting what he's going to do next," Dennehy said Wednesday. "He might be back in California now for all we know."

    For most of the past year, OR-7 has traveled around northeastern California, most recently in the western Modoc County area, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    On March 6, he suddenly made a beeline north, traveling about 60 air miles and reaching Klamath County, said USFWS biologist John Stephenson in Bend.

    "It's very different movement than what he's been doing for a while in California," Stephenson said. "He just decided to bust a move."

    No one knows why, or whether he's alone, Stephenson said. However, wolves have been known to abruptly leave an area in winter or early spring, he said.

    "Even whole packs will go on a walkabout," Stephenson said.

    The GPS transmitter was fitted on OR-7 in February 2011, and its life expectancy is three years, Stephenson said.

    "That one, obviously, has been a pretty reliable collar," Stephenson said.

    OR-7's return puts the number of documented gray wolves in Oregon at 47, and he remains the only one outside of northeastern Oregon, according to the ODFW.

    The six known packs are the most recorded in Oregon since the return of wolves, Dennehy said.

    Gray wolves are protected here under both the state and federal endangered species laws, making it illegal to harm or harass them.

    Unlike other members of the Imnaha pack, OR-7 has never been associated with livestock kills during his time in Oregon and California.

    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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