If wandering wolf OR-7 continues to retrace the path he took from Oregon to California in search of a mate, his path through Jackson County likely won't lead to love.
The mate OR-7 has sought so famously for during his well-chronicled travels through Oregon and Northern California probably still isn't in the backwoods of Jackson County, which the GPS-collared wolf found to his liking 15 months ago, biologists say.
No wolf sightings have been reported in Jackson County since OR-7 left for California last April 1, says Michelle Dennehy, wolf program spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
No credible or confirmed reports or photographs have reached ODFW's Central Point office, suggesting that OR-7 will continue looking for love in all the wrong places if he tries again in Jackson County.
"Unless something's come over here, I think his chances are grim, pretty grim," says Mark Vargas, ODFW's Rogue District wildlife biologist. "He's going to remain a bachelor for a while.
"I seriously think that, if more wolves were out there, someone would get it on a trail camera," Vargas says.
That's how the world got its first glimpse of OR-7, which dispersed from the Imnaha pack in Eastern Oregon in the fall of 2011 and wandered southwest to become the first confirmed wolf west of the Cascade crest since 1937.
A Central Point hunter's trail camera, placed in the woods east of Butte Falls, snapped a shot of what was later confirmed to be OR-7.
A handful of photographs have subsequently been snapped of the now 4-year-old wolf, including a set of three grainy images captured March 6 by Bryce Bohlander southeast of Alturas in California's Modoc County, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.
"I was just driving north on Highway 139 by Adin looking for animals because normally we see a lot of critters on that road," says Bohlander, of Reno, Nev. "Out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement, stopped and thought, 'Holy s—-! That's a wolf!' Instantly, I figured it was OR-7."
Bohlander watched it lope away about 50 yards from the highway after he snapped his photos, and the location was later matched to OR-7's GPS coordinates.
Six days later, the wolf was in southwestern Klamath County, which Dennehy says is his last known location.
Vargas says his office regularly gets calls about supposed wolf sightings, especially when OR-7 is in the news.
A hunter last fall in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area discovered a print in the snow that could have been from a wolf, Vargas says. It could as easily have been a dog print that partially melted to appear larger, Vargas says.
"I'm just gong to say, 'It could be,' " Vargas says.
Many other reports don't get that intense a scrutiny, he says.
"You get calls from people seeing wolves even in downtown Central Point," Vargas says. "Seriously, we just got one of those a month ago."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.