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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Wandering wolf back in Oregon

Wandering wolf back in Oregon

The Imnaha pack wolf dubbed “OR-7” returned to Oregon last week after more than two months in Northern California.

After a sojourn that began late last summer, many wonder if he will eventually return to his native Wallowa County.

After 12 days in Siskiyou County, Calif., OR-7 was located via his global positioning system collar in Klamath County at noon on March 1. As of midnight March 2, he had traveled into Jackson County.

When OR-7 was collared, there were 15 members of the Imnaha pack. The first known member to disperse was OR5, who moved into Washington in late January 2011.

With six new pups born in 2010, pack dispersal was inevitable.

OR-7 was collared last February during an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife aerial capture in which he was tranquilized, weighed, measured and given an ear tag.

He was determined to be a yearling in good health. Since pups are generally born between the middle and the end of April, OR-7 is probably nearing his third birthday.

OR-7 showed signs of wanderlust once spring came and headed northwest from the Imnaha pack’s territory.

On May 6, he left his normal range and journeyed into Wenaha Country. Data received from his collar confirms that he crossed the Grande Ronde River three times during high spring run-off conditions before he was located in Anatone, Wash., along the states’ border.

He traveled south again into the Tucannon area of the Umatilla National Forest, came south and crossed the Wenaha River near Troy, swam the Grande Ronde River once again and traveled across Forest Capital land east back into Imnaha pack country.

Since his second round of travels began in early September, there has been no confirmation that he was involved in any livestock kills, but fladry, electrified, flagged fencing was installed around a sheep ranch in Klamath County.

However, before he left northeast Oregon, radio collar information pinpointed him near several cattle kills in Wallowa County.

On Feb. 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined two cows, weeks from calving, were killed by wolves along what has become known as the Wolf Highway in the Wallowa Valley.

Though OR-7 had not been collared yet and the alpha male’s (OR4) collar was no longer working, both the Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and the USDA Wildlife Service’s agent agreed by the number of tracks left in the snow that the entire pack was there.

March 19, after OR-7 was collared, telemetry information and eye witness observation confirmed members of the pack chasing horses in the Divide Country between the Big Sheep Creek and Imnaha River drainages.

Radio collar information confirmed OR-7 was in the vicinity of a calf killed on the Zumwalt April 23 and also in the vicinity of a calf found April 30 in the Divide Country.

According to OR-7’s collar information, he left the pack’s territory May 6 and returned May 16. During that time, no livestock were killed in Wallowa County.

When a calf was killed May 27, radio collar information located OR-7 south and north of the kill. However, this kill was not confirmed to be wolf-caused by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Global positioning system radio collars have become invaluable for ranchers and biologists, not only to aid livestock kill investigations but, in the case of OR-7, the device has helped track the wolf’s travels south into California and now back into Oregon, captivating the nation.

Because of global positioning data, we also know Imnaha pack member OR9 dispersed to Idaho and his movements were closely tracked until he was shot a few weeks ago by a hunter.

Information received from two standard radio collars confirmed that Imnaha pack member OR5 dispersed to Washington last winter and OR3 left the pack in the spring and was last located in central Oregon.

In the summer of 2010, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully trapped and collared OR6 of the Wenaha pack, wolves that have stayed fairly elusive so far in country that straddles Union and Wallowa counties.

Two months later, OR6 was shot and killed on the Umatilla National Forest and left to be discovered by a Fish and Wildlife intern. Currently, that pack has no collared wolves.

Last summer, biologists collared two pups of the Walla Walla pack in Umatilla County, which helps both Fish and Wildlife and livestock producers track their whereabouts.

To date, the state has scheduled no aerial captures this winter for any of the known wolf packs, all of which reside in northeast Oregon, and the agency will not trap wolves in order to collar them when overnight temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

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