From our friends at oregonwild.org comes the remarkable story of OR-7
February 14, 2016
Don’t Stop Believing: The Journey of OR-7
The Wolf Formerly Known as OR-7
In the fall of 2011, a radio-collared Oregon wolf with the designation OR-7 from the Imnaha Pack in northeast Oregon made history. After an epic journey across the state, the two-year old male became the first confirmed wolf west of the Cascades since the last wolf bounty had been collected in 1947.
In a moment of rare historic symmetry, OR-7 – born to the first pack of wolves to return to Oregon since that tragic day – may have passed by the very spot in the Umpqua National Forest where Oregon’s last wolf was killed.
After spending time in the Soda Mountain Wilderness, Klamath Basin and Sky Lakes Wilderness south of Crater Lake, OR-7 continued his journey south and became the first wolf confirmed in California in nearly a century. Part of what made OR-7’s trek across the state possible were the Wilderness and roadless areas he traveled through, demonstrating the value and worth of large roadless areas to facilitate wildlife corridors (learn more about roadless areas below).
In an attempt to draw attention to the great conservation success story that is wolf recovery, Oregon Wild sponsored a children’s art and naming contest, and on January 4, 2012, OR-7 got a new name – Journey.
On the very same day, the first “real” photo of Journey surfaced in the Medford Mail Tribune, taken by a hunter’s remote trail camera. A few months later, the first color photo of Journey was released by the California Department of Fish and Game (above) of Journey on a Modoc County hillside.
While the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is no longer releasing new information on Journey, the California Department of Fish and Game regularly updates his (generalized) location.
- You can get the latest updates on Journey’s travels here.
- Read a blog post about what Journey’s been up to lately.
- You can also find more links specifically about Journey below.
Read on for maps, photos, and news of interest to those tracking the progress of Journey and Oregon’s fragile wolf recovery, including descriptions of some of the landscapes Journey explored on his epic, ongoing Journey.
Map by Erik Fernandez of Oregon Wild (with data from ODFW, ONDA and California Wilderness Coalition) shows the path of Journey in relation to land uses across the state with a focus on the wild backcountry.
The Struggle of Journey’s Ancestors
Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were once common in Oregon, occupying most of the state. While a deliberate effort to eradicate the species was successful by the late 1940s, the trouble for wolves began before Oregon was even became a state.
In 1843 the first wolf bounty was established and Oregon’s first legislative session was called in part to address the “problem of marauding wolves.” By 1913, citizens could collect a $5 state bounty and an Oregon State Game Commission bounty of $20. The last recorded wolf bounty was paid out in 1947.
In 1995, 66 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho. A few years later, after an absence of over half a century, wolves began to take their first tentative steps towards recovery.
Having dispersed from Idaho, the native species is once again trying to make a home in Oregon. One of the first sightings came in 1999 when a lone wolf was captured near the middle fork of the John Day River, put in a crate and quickly returned to Idaho. In 2000, two wolves were found dead – one killed by a car, the other illegally shot.
In 2006, a flurry of sightings led state wildlife biologists to believe that a number of wild wolves were living in Northeast Oregon near the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. In May of 2007 a wolf was found shot to death near La Grande.
After that sad chapter, wolves began to establish a fragile foothold in the state. In July 2008 pups were confirmed to a wolf named Sophie by the Oregon Wild wolf pack (and B-300 to government biologists). Those pups represented the first in Oregon nearly 60 years! A second set of six pups were confirmed and videotaped in November 2009. The following July, a third litter of pups was confirmed.
Unfortunately, the news was tempered with additional poaching and heavy-handed state management. After peaking at 26 confirmed wolves, wolf recovery stalled out in Oregon 2011.
While some wolves dispersed from the Imnaha Pack, only one pup was confirmed to Oregon’s first pack, and two pups were confirmed in one of the state’s other two packs (the Walla Walla and Wenaha). Oregon’s confirmed wolf population fell to 17, and then to 14, when the state killed three more wolves (two on purpose) and poachers killed a fourth. By the end of 2011, Oregon’s confirmed wolf population held its ground and stood at 29 (30 when Journey was in the state).
Anticipating the eventual return of wolves, the state has initially created a wolf conservation and management plan in 2005, aimed at making rational decisions in the light of day that would lead to wolf recovery that worked for everyone.
Though state polling put support for wolf recovery at over 70 percent, the plan was weak, allowing the state to kill wolves at the request of the livestock industry and others, and set scientifically indefensible recovery goals.
In 2010, the plan was reviewed and revised. The public process took the better part of a year and demonstrated that support for wolf recovery had grown. Over 90 percent of a staggering 20,000 public comments were in favor of stronger protections for Oregon’s endangered gray wolves.
Oregon Wild joined other conservationists and the Oregon public in defending the plan against continued attacks. Though the plan survived relatively intact, most of the approved changes made it easier to kill wolves.
Still, wolves are threatened by a purposeful campaign of misinformation and fear. This webpage shoots down many of the common myths about wolves. A small number of vocal anti-wolf activists along with industry lobbyists and their political allies continue to work to undermine already weak protections for wolves and other wildlife.
Though not representative of a state that values native wildlife, political pressure has mounted and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began to violate the spirit of the wolf plan by quickly turning to lethal control.
In 2011, conservationists claimed, and a judge agreed, the agency was also violating the law. Over the objections of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and ODFW leadership, the state was barred from purposely killing endangered wolves.
For a state that prides itself on its green reputation, the extermination of wolves is one of our greatest environmental tragedies. But their return represents an opportunity at redemption.