By Mark Freeman
Allen Daniels checked his trail camera hidden in the woods east of Butte Falls one day last fall looking for photographs of the black-tailed deer he was hunting, not trying to capture wildlife history.
But one of his black-and-white images contains what biologists believe is the first known photograph of OR-7, the wandering gray wolf whose 700-plus-mile journey from northeastern Oregon to Northern California has captured imaginations on five continents. “I kind of figured it was him,” said Daniels, 24, of Central Point. “I knew it was a wolf and there’s only one wolf. “It’s pretty cool,” he said. The photograph was taken at 1 p.m. Nov. 14 on public lands south of Willow Lake, said Daniels, who declined to be more specific.
Roblyn Brown, assistant wolf biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said satellite tracking technology confirms OR-7 was in that area at that time and date. After reviewing the photograph Tuesday, Brown said the wolf on the image appears to have a GPS collar on and it “likely” is OR-7.
Though biologists captured the 2-year-old male in late February from northeastern Oregon’s Imnaha pack, no photo was taken of OR-7 before his release.
Daniels said he is not seeking any public attention for garnering the photograph, but figures people might want to see a glimpse of the animal that was the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon in 65 years and last week became California’s first confirmed wolf since 1924. Considering OR-7’s story went viral in early December with news accounts printed and aired across the globe, chances are Daniels is right. “We certainly have a lot of interested people and the media asking for a photo of this wolf,” ODFW Wildlife Division spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. “We’ve had people from Argentina and Italy asking for a photo.” A satellite ping registered Tuesday morning confirmed that OR-7, which is federally protected as an endangered species, remained in eastern Siskiyou County, said Mark Stopher of the California Department of Fish and Game in Sacramento.
The wolf was first tracked into California on Dec. 28, and since then he has moved a bit further south and onto a patch of forested federal land, Stopher said. “He’s moving around but he’s staying in those 10 square miles,” Stopher said. OR-7 set off Sept. 10 away from the Imnaha pack on what’s called “dispersal behavior” to find territory of his own and perhaps even a mate.
While other wolves have dispersed mainly within northeastern Oregon, OR-7 began migrating south and west until he crossed the Cascade Crest and into Douglas County to become the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon since 1946. The story of a lone wolf apparently on a quest for love has captured headlines worldwide as OR-7 worked his way through 11 Oregon counties, settling for more than a month in a 100-square-mile area of Klamath and Jackson counties before heading south to California.
OR-7 is the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon and California because his satellite tracking device made confirmation possible, but biologists believe he could have been preceded by other, uncollared dispersing wolves that have remained discreet.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.