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.
It really has been a long, strange trip for the wolf known as OR7 by wildlife managers. The animal first came to prominence back at the first of the year, when he became California’s first gray wolf since 1947, wandering over from Oregon. It was big enough news that Oregon Wild had a naming contest for it, resulting in the classic rock-inspired moniker, Journey.
High hopes that Journey would mate and restart the California gray wolf populated seemed to be dashed in early March, when unable to find a mate, the animal returned to Oregon. At the time, Russ Morgan, the wolf coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said there was still reason to keep hope alive.
"It's possible OR7 will cross back into California and be using areas in both states," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "While wolves crossing state boundaries may be significant for people, wolves and other wildlife don't pay attention to state borders."
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.”