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OR-7 makes history by crossing into California

The gray wolf that has spent more than a month zigzagging throughout eastern Jackson County and western Klamath County has wandered into Northern California to become that state's first confirmed wolf in 87 years.

But whether he will take up residency or is visiting for the holidays remains to be seen.

The wolf, known as OR-7, has a satellite-transmitting device on his collar that registered a ping at noon Wednesday in Siskiyou County just a few miles from the Oregon border.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists received a download Thursday noting the location, and they informed their counterparts in California of the wolf's presence, said Michelle Dennehy, the ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.

The 2-year-old wolf has wandered more than 700 miles since it left its Imnaha pack near Enterprise in September during its "dispersal" journey seeking new habitat and perhaps a mate. The journey has played out to captivated readers and listeners on five continents, even as it stayed more than a month in a 100-square-mile area of Southern Oregon before its historic journey south.

The wolf had been in the Keno area earlier this week before becoming the first confirmed wolf in California since one was killed in Lassen County in 1924.

"We could find out that it's back in Oregon tomorrow," Dennehy said. "There's really no way to predict what it will do.

"But it's their wolf to manage now," Dennehy said.

The wolf is protected as endangered in California under the federal Endangered Species Act, and the state has no management plan as yet for wolves, said Mark Stopher, of the California Department of Fish and Game's executive office.

The animal on Wednesday was on public land in eastern Siskiyou County but lands not considered prime wolf habitat, which is usually associated with plenty of distance from roads and people, Stopher said.

This particular area has "too many people, too much agriculture and not enough cover," Stopher said.

When the wolf reached Southern Oregon, California officials considered it "a real possibility" that OR-7 would at least visit their state, Stopher said.

"There was a high probability that this animal would at least temporarily disperse into California," Stopher said.

California biologists have no immediate plans to look for OR-7 on the ground, he said.

Though the animal was collared, there are no confirmed photographs of OR-7.

"Nobody's seen him," Stopher said. "He's pretty good at hiding."

State fish and game officials will plan to meet with landowners, county commissioners and livestock producers to discuss wolf issues there in the near future, Stopher said.

The ODFW has been sued over its plans to kill wolves identified as killing livestock in Eastern Oregon under the state's wolf management plan.

"Whether one is for it or against it, the entry of this lone wolf into California is an historic event and result of much work by the wildlife agencies in the West," DFG Director Charlton H. Bonham said Thursday in a prepared statement. "If the gray wolf does establish a population in California, there will be much more work to do here."

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