MEDFORD, Ore. — The wandering wolf dubbed OR-7 has enjoyed well over his 15 minutes of fame. But even with continued public interest, he could soon fade from the spotlight.
The Global Positioning System collar that has sent regular electronic pulses to reveal his travels for the past three years has eclipsed its normal life span, and state and federal biologists don’t plan to replace it.
“When that collar dies, we’ll never know his fate,” Rob Klavins of the conservation group Oregon Wild told the Mail Tribune newspaper. “But that could be OK. It’s good to have a little mystery in the world.”
The wolf gained celebrity status in 2011 after leaving a pack in northeastern Oregon, days after the state issued a kill order for his father and a sibling for preying on livestock.
Most Oregon wolves on such journeys, called dispersals, have stayed in northeast Oregon or traveled to Idaho. The young wolf headed west with the tracking satellite following his moves as he fruitlessly searched for a mate.
He became the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon since the last one was killed under a livestock-protection bounty program in 1937. He then crossed a state line and became California’s only confirmed wolf since 1924.
He wandered throughout Northern California and almost traveled into Nevada before retracing his steps to southern Oregon, where he’s spending his time near Mount McLoughlin.
The wolf will not be re-collared because biologists prefer to collar breeding pairs or members of packs. Collaring can be dangerous and time-consuming, and biologists would rather collar animals in other packs not sporting GPS collars to get information on their whereabouts and habits instead of an established bachelor like OR-7.
“As biologists, we tend to look at wildlife management from a population standpoint, not at individual animals,” says Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf program. “But we were also impressed by all the interest this one wolf, OR-7, has created around the world.”