Southern California environment news and trends

Biologists spot California’s lone gray wolf

A wild gray wolf (Canis lupus) stands over its prey.

OR7, the internationally known lone gray wolf that strayed into California from Oregon (presumably looking for a mate) is still calling the golden state home. The wolf, also known as “Journey,” had a close encounter of the human kind when wildlife biologist Richard Shinn spotted (and photographed) the animal in the hills of Modoc County in northern California.

As reported by Pete Thomas Outdoors, Shinn was with a federal trapper and state game warden informing local ranchers that the wolf had been detected in the area on GPS when the sighting occurred.

"There, all of a sudden, out pops a head, and here he is," explained Karen Kovacs of the California Department of Fish and Game, to the Associated Press. "He appeared very healthy."

OR7 was seen and photographed on a hillside from a distance of about 100 yards, and the picture is the first color photo taken of the wolf.


California’s lone gray wolf: just visiting

Ingo Wagner/AFP/Getty Images

And then there were none.

After much exaltation, celebration and even some classic rock inspiration, California’s lone gray wolf has decided to turn tail and return to Oregon. Not that the wolf called Journey (AKA OR7) didn’t have a good reason. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the poor guy just couldn’t find a mate.

The animal has been tracked via radio collar for the past two months, and has wandered the Siskiyou, Shasta and Lassen counties, “likely searching for a mate to start his own pack.” When his search turned up empty, he began the lonely march back to his home state.

The animal’s lack of success was not for lack of trying. As reported by the L.A. Times, the wolf has traveled more than 2,000 miles since last September, which Karen Kovacs, a wildlife program manager for the California Department of Fish and Game, calls “just incredible.”


First California Gray Wolf in decades inspires classic rock moniker, "Journey"

Mercer 1017


Focusing on so much manmade environmental calamity (and the myriad ways we try to counter the madness) can take a toll after a while. Has it really all come to this? Still, it’s a balance. Living in the glorious climates of southern California goes a long way in making up for the air quality and zombie drivers.

Which is why the ceaseless wonders of nature never fail to provide some relief. Living in the relative wilds of California, we’re as used as one can be to the area’s native residents of the animal kingdom saying hello. But when one of nature’s creatures travels great distances to call California home, it’s hard not to appreciate the effort. Especially when it’s names after classic rock band Journey.

Already famous for making the trek from Oregon into California, making him the first Gray Wolf in the state since 1947, conservationists Oregon Wild marked the occasion with a naming contest. The winning entry (which was sent in by an 11-year-old in North Dakota and a 7-year-old in Idaho) was “Journey.” Cue the “Don’t Stop Believin’” puns, from the original Oregon Wild report all the way up to NBC news anchor referencing the Journey song in a national report.