FRESNO, Calif. – He doesn’t like busy Interstate 5 or eating cattle, at least so far.
He gets along with his distant cousins the coyotes, likes to swim and roams a lot – an awful lot – around the northernmost reaches of the Golden State.
A week or so ago, California’s lone gray wolf passed his one-year anniversary as a transplant resident with the same technical accoutrements some people possess: a Twitter account and an online site about his travels.
What strikes me about him is that when I talk to the general public they show remarkable knowledge about his movements, much more than some world events, said Richard Callas, a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Wolves captivate public interest.
No matter how you feel about wolves, when you see one it’s amazing, he added.
Far larger than coyotes, wolves were feared and hunted to near-extinction in the U.S. before being protected by the Endangered Species Act. They were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s, and some migrated into Idaho and Oregon, where they have reproduced.
California’s wolf is known as OR-7 because he was the seventh in Oregon to be fitted with a GPS tracking collar. While most wolves stay within 100 miles of where they were born, OR-7 proved different: He trotted 1,000 miles from northeast Oregon to California, then more than 2,000 miles since arriving.
Scientists speculate the 3 1/2 -year-old is looking for a mate or a new pack, although they know both prospects are remote. He is believed to be the first of the predators to roam within the state’s boundaries since 1924, when the last gray wolf was killed by a trapper intent on making the West safe for cattle.
The reality is OR-7 is not likely to find a mate in California. He’ll likely pass on without successfully reproducing, said Karen Kovacs, whose job as wildlife program manager for the state Department of Fish & Wildlife has been focused lately on this one animal.
OR-7 has aroused concerns among residents of the northeastern counties who fear the wolf will kill livestock, although officials say he has not so far.
The California Cattlemen’s Association opposes listing the wolf on California’s endangered species list based on a single animal wandering into the state.
Any time a predator is introduced, or in this case crosses the border, it concerns people especially those in Northern California where this wolf now seems to call his home, said Justin Oldfield, vice president of government relations for the association.
Our goal now is to work with (wildlife agencies) to see how we can manage this predator in California.
That would include things such as what livestock owners can do to protect their animals.
Despite the high-tech gadgetry hanging from his neck, sightings of the wolf are rare.