The wandering gray wolf, OR-7, may be wandering out of the picture if wildlife officials decide to not replace a tracking device that has garnered the animal a worldwide audience.
The gray wolf known as “OR-7” was fitted with a GPS radio collar as a 2-year-old in 2011. That same year he made history as the first confirmed wolf sighted west of the Cascades since 1937.
According to John Stephenson, a private land and wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, radio collars have a three-year lifespan. OR-7’s was fitted in late February 2011, meaning it just passed its three-year mark. Stephenson said as of now, officials don’t plan to re-collar OR-7, but a final decision hasn’t been made yet.
“No low battery signals have come through, so there’s still time,” he said.
After dispersing from the Imnaha Pack in Wallowa County and traveling southwest across Oregon and temporarily into Northern California, OR-7 settled down in Southern Oregon. According to John Stephenson, OR-7 remained in Klamath and Jackson counties for most of 2013, minus the occasional jaunt into Northern California.
“He’s north of Mt. McLoughlin now, a little north of where he was a few months ago,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson pointed out that agencies are weighing the pros and cons of re-collaring, including the cost and risk to the animal involved. If OR-7 had found a mate or become part of a breeding pair, officials would want to keep a close eye on him, he said.
“At this point I don’t know if there’s a good reason to do that,” Stephenson said. “I don’t know how much more we’re going to learn from re-collaring him.”
Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), said radio collars are useful when trying to establish a pack’s range and collars can help ranchers prevent livestock depredations by connecting with email or text message alerts when a wolf is nearby. Neither of those situations apply to OR-7.
According to the 2013 Wolf Annual Report, last year 108 livestock producers in three counties received more than 83,000 text or email notifications informing them of wolf presence in the area of their livestock.
In 2012, ODFW documented 46 wolves in six packs with six breeding pairs in Eastern Oregon. In 2013, at least 64 wolves in eight packs, including four breeding pairs, were documented.