Wandering wolf OR-7 returned Friday to Jackson County after spending the past two months roaming nearly 1,000 miles through California in his very public six-month search for a mate.
GPS data show the nearly 3-year-old male crossed into Oregon from Northern California's Siskiyou County and was discovered at noon Thursday in southwest Klamath County about 30 miles from where he spent the past 12 days, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Another GPS ping at midnight Thursday put him in southeastern Jackson County, near where he spent a month last fall zig-zagging across the Cascade crest on the Jackson/Klamath county line, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Though he has roughly retraced the path that led him from Oregon on Dec. 28 to nearly as far as Nevada, there is no way to know whether the first confirmed wolf in California since 1924 has put the Golden State behind him.
"While wolves crossing state boundaries may be significant to people, wolves and other wildlife don't pay attention to state borders," Russ Morgan, the ODFW's wolf program coordinator, said in a statement. "It's possible OR-7 will cross back into California and be using areas in both states."
The animal will continue to be tracked by biologists in both states and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as his journey continues, Morgan said.
California wildlife officials say OR-7 covered 900 air miles — but many more actual miles on the ground — while traveling through Siskiyou, Shasta and Lassen counties. Biologists assume he has been searching for new territory and a mate since he left the Imnaha pack Sept. 10, 2011.
Before heading to California, he had covered more than 1,062 miles during his Oregon movements. He is the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon in 65 years, which is when wolves were shot by bounty hunters to protect livestock.
ODFW biologists in February captured OR-7 and fitted him with a collar containing a GPS transmitter that sends information to satellites. That information is downloaded daily, when available, to biologists tracking the animal.
California Department of Fish and Game officials keep a map of his movements through California at www.dfg.ca.gov/wolf.
While in southwest Oregon, OR-7 is protected under state and federal Endangered Species Act laws. Wolves are not listed under the federal ESA in northeast Oregon, but they are covered there under the state act, said ODFW wolf program spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.