OR-7 in Jackson County, Oregon, in May 2014
|Breed||Canis lupus occidentalis|
|Nation from||United States|
|Weight||90 lb (41 kg) in February 2011|
|Named after||7th wolf collared in Oregon|
OR-7, also known as Journey, is a male gray wolf that was electronically tracked as he migrated from the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern corner of the U.S. state of Oregon to the southern Cascade Range. After the wolf left his pack in 2011, he wandered generally southwest for more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) through Oregon and northern California. He was the first confirmed wild wolf in western Oregon since 1947 and the first in California since 1924.
By 2014, OR-7 had settled in the Rogue River watershed in the southern Cascade Range east of Medford, Oregon, with a mate. It is not known when the two wolves met, but DNA tests of fecal samples showed that she is related to wolves in two of the eight packs in northeastern Oregon. In early 2015, officials designated the two adult wolves and their offspring as the Rogue Pack, the first wolf pack in western Oregon and the state's ninth overall since wolves returned to Oregon from Idaho in the 1990s. The batteries in OR-7's tracking collar expired in October 2015, and monitoring the pack since then has depended on trail cameras and live sightings. Meanwhile, other wolves have migrated into the mountainous cross-border region, and siblings of OR–7 have formed a pack in northern California.
Wolves were reintroduced into the Northern Rocky Mountains in the 1990s. In February 2011, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) attached radio collars to several wolves in the Imnaha Pack in northeastern Oregon to allow study of their migration. The pack was Oregon's first since wolves returned to the state. The wolves were numbered; one of them, a year-old male, was given the code OR-7 as the seventh wolf to be collared.
As is common for non-dominant wolf males, OR-7 left the Imnaha Pack in the Wallowa Mountains near Joseph in September 2011, presumably in search of a mate. In November, he became the first wolf detected in western Oregon in more than 60 years when he was photographed east of Butte Falls by an automatic trail camera. This marked the first known wild wolf presence in southwestern Oregon since 1946.
The wolf crossed the border into northern California in late December, becoming the first documented wolf in the state since 1924. OR-7 remained in California, trekking through Siskiyou, Shasta and Lassen counties until heading north to Klamath County, Oregon, in March 2012. OR-7 soon made his way to Jackson County. By then the wolf had traveled more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km). OR-7 returned to California, spending the summer in the Plumas National Forest south of Mount Lassen, and as of December 2012 had migrated to near Lake Almanor. He returned to Oregon in March 2013.
OR-7's migration captured the attention of viewers around the world after the story "went viral" in early December 2011. In 2012, OR-7 was named "Journey" through an art and naming competition for children sponsored by the non-profit group Oregon Wild. The conservation group acknowledged that the naming contest "was part of an effort to make the wolf too famous to kill". Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild, said of the wolf: "Journey is the most famous wolf in the world. It is not surprising that the paparazzi finally caught up with him."
German-born filmmaker Clemens Schenk, who lives in Bend, has created a documentary, OR7: The Journey. A look-alike wolf from Wolf People, an Idaho reserve, is the star of the film, which includes interviews with wolf experts as well as a woman who encountered OR-7 in the wild. The initial screening of the documentary took place in 2014 at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland. Author Emma Bland Smith and illustrator Robin James tell the wolf's story in Journey, a picture book for children ages 5 to 9.
In May 2014, remote cameras in the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest captured photographs of OR-7 along with a female wolf who might have mated with him. A month later, biologists from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the ODFW returned to southwest Oregon, photographed two wolf pups, and took fecal samples for DNA testing to determine the relationship of the pups to OR-7. By September, tests run at the University of Idaho confirmed that OR-7's mate is a wolf, that the two pups are their offspring, and that the mate is related to the wolves in the Minam and Snake River packs of northeastern Oregon.
The birth of wolf pups so close to the state border raised the probability of a future long-term wolf population in California. In June 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3–1 to protect those wolves under the state Endangered Species Act.
The adult wolves and their pups remained east of Medford in the Rogue River watershed, and in early 2015 officials named the group the Rogue Pack, the ninth contemporary wolf pack in Oregon. By July, wildlife biologists found evidence that OR-7 and his mate had produced a second litter of pups. A month later, trail cameras identified two new pups, bringing the known total of wolves in this pack to seven. By 2016, the pack size had grown to nine.
The batteries in OR–7's Global Positioning System tracking unit expired in October 2015. Officials decided to replace the collar in order to keep track of the pack, which is protected under Oregon law and the federal Endangered Species Act. However, attempts to trap OR-7 or other members of the pack failed, and further tracking of OR-7 depended on trail cameras and live sightings. A trail camera in the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest captured an image of OR-7 and one of his offspring in early 2016. After four steers were killed by wolves in Wood River Valley in western Klamath County (immediately east of Jackson County) near where OR–7 was last seen, biologists said efforts to trap and re-collar the wolf would likely resume in spring 2017. Tracking could alert ranchers concerned about their livestock.
Since 2015, wolves outside the Rogue Pack have also migrated to western Oregon. These include what officials have termed the "Keno Pair" near Keno, further south in Klamath County, and the "Silver Lake Wolves" in Lake County. The Oregon wolf population reached an estimated minimum of 110 in 2015.
Siblings in California
Although OR-7 was the first gray wolf to visit California in nearly 100 years, other wolves have since migrated to Siskiyou County, just south of the Oregon–California border. In 2015, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a photo of the Shasta Pack, consisting of two adults and five pups. The breeding pair came from the same pack as OR-7, making them his siblings.
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