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OR-7 might make home in region's mountains

The wandering wolf known as OR-7 is "showing signs" of staking out a territory in the south Cascades east of Butte Falls, but it's too early to say whether he will end his historic and closely followed journey by setting up home there.

Thursday marked one month since the 2-year-old male wearing a satellite-tracking collar moved into the wilds along the Cascade crest near the Jackson and Klamath county line between Crater Lake National Park and Mount McLoughlin.

His latest detection, received early Thursday, was in Jackson County near Mount McLoughlin, ODFW Wildlife Division spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said.

He left his home Imnaha pack east of Enterprise and has traveled more than 300 miles to become the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon in 65 years, and the world has followed this Internet sensation's search for a new home.

"It's probably premature to say he's done dispersing, but he seems to have settled in that area," said Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It's too early to say if he is developing a territory or using a territory, but he is showing signs of developing his home range."

In the past month, biologists for ODFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have received more than 90 satellite hits on the wolf's presence in a roughly 100-square-mile, polygon-shaped area drawn on a new map unveiled this week.

His movements include regular "backtracking" along each side of the Cascade crest in a pattern Morgan describes as "perfectly natural" for a wolf checking out the neighborhood.

For now, biologists are calling it a "use area" as they and media outlets worldwide track OR-7 as he looks for prey, distance from humans and perhaps even a mate.

State and federal biologists tracking OR-7 had tried unsuccessfully to find and photograph the wolf and perhaps discover tracks that could be the best evidence of whether he is alone, Morgan said.

"If he stays, it's very likely that area will grow," said Morgan, who added that a normal wolf range is 50 to 300 square miles. "One hundred square miles isn't really a lot for a wolf.

"We'll see where he goes as the winter goes and the snow gets deeper," Morgan said.

The animal is one of 25 confirmed wolves in Oregon. The first wolves emigrated south from Idaho in the late 1990s.

The wolf is protected as a threatened species under state and federal laws.

Since OR-7's trek began Sept. 10, people have reported wolf sightings in the Cascades, but biologists have not been able to match any of the sightings with OR-7's GPS data, Dennehy said.

It is possible that people have spotted the now-famous wolf or spied different wolves in the Cascades, but neither scenario can be verified, she said.

No photos of OR-7 are known to exist, but his name appears on more than 300 websites around the world, many touting him as a lonesome wolf looking for love, although biologists have not been able to verify whether he is alone or looking for a mate.

ODFW biologists encourage people to report wolf sightings online at www.dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/wolf_reporting_form.asp and to send in any photos or trail-camera footage of suspected wolves.

"It's an impressive journey he's made," Morgan said. "He's stirred up more interest, to be honest, than I can believe. But it's not a bad thing."

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