OR7, left, and his lupine lover. Photo Credit: U.S. Dep't of Fish and Wildlife.
OR7, California’s first gray wolf to inhabit the state since 1924, may have found a mate, according to images captured by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that were released earlier this week.
A trail camera in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwestern Oregon captured separate images of OR7 and a female gray wolf. According to data from OR7’s radio collar, the wolf has temporarily abandoned his roaming ways and has been hanging close to the same area, leading wildlife officials to believe he and the female gray wolf have mated.
Wolf pups are typically born in mid-April, so any pups would still be denned up at this time. Wildlife officials won’t be able to conduct surveys confirming the presence of pups until June or later, so as not to disturb the family. If confirmed, OR7’s new brood marks the first known wolf breeding in the Oregon Cascades since the early 20th century.
This is great news for wolves in the Pacific Northwest and, eventually, California. For wolf populations to thrive and eventually return to the Golden State, however, we also need strong legal and regulatory protections for this iconic native species. We support listing the gray wolf as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) throughout its historic range, and have been working for more than two years on a wolf management plan with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and a broad and diverse group of stakeholders.
The California Fish and Game Commission will issue a decision on whether to list the wolf under CESA later this summer. Listing would help protect OR7 and his brethren to the point where they can re-establish populations in California – which has suddenly become all the more important, now that OR7 has a family to think about.
Thanks to my colleague Julie Mendel for contributing to this post.