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OR-7 now officially the leader of his pack

It's official: Southwestern Oregon now has its own wolf pack.

Wolf OR-7, his mate and three pups have been designated the Rogue Pack by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and they remain the only known wolves in southwestern Oregon, according to the ODFW.

"Instead of talking about OR-7 and a group, it's time to call them what they are — a pack," says biologist John Stephenson with the USFWS in Bend.

The name is derived from the upper Rogue River watershed and the Rogue Wildlife Management Unit in eastern Jackson County, where the wolves spend the majority of their time in the South Cascades, says Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the ODFW's wolf program.

Most of Oregon's other eight wolf packs are named in a similar manner, Dennehy says.

The territory where the wolves roam had been known as an Area of Known Wolf Activity, but it was reclassified this week under the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, according to the ODFW.

Under the plan, a pack is a group of wolves, usually consisting of a male, female and their offspring from one or more generations. For purposes of monitoring, a pack may be defined as a group of four or more wolves traveling together in winter, according to the plan.

There is no final count on how many pups are in the Rogue Pack, Dennehy says. However, federal biologists previously have said they counted at least three.

Stephenson says biologists have "strong evidence" that at least some of the pair's pups have survived into January, thus reaching the threshold.

ODFW biologists are in the midst of counting Oregon's wolves and will announce those counts when available, Dennehy says.

Last year's end-of-the-year count showed 64 known wolves, Dennehy says.

OR-7 was a young member of Oregon's Imnaha pack when he was collared in February 2011, eight months before he left the pack in a "dispersal" trek in search of a mate and new territory.

He traveled south and west until he crossed the Cascade crest, becoming the first wolf in Western Oregon since 1937. He later spent more than a year traveling in Northern California, where he was the Golden State's first known wolf since 1924.

For close to two years, he has stayed within his home territory of eastern Jackson, western Klamath and southeastern Douglas counties, according to the ODFW.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Two of wolf OR-7's pups peek out from a log on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, June 2, 2014. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A remote camera captured this photo of OR-7 on May 3 in eastern Jackson County. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service