Western Oregon’s Rogue wolf pack may have only received official pack status earlier this year, but they already seem intent on expanding. According to state wildlife officials, Oregon’s famous wandering wolf OR-7 may be denning with the same black female wolf he sired pups with back in 2014.
“We think they’re denning again. Just the behavior we’re seeing,” John Stephenson, wolf coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Oregon, told Reuters. “OR-7 is returning to a same area repeatedly.”
OR-7 first came to the spotlight after leaving Eastern Oregon and venturing into California, becoming the first wolf to enter that state in nearly 90 years. On his way back, OR-7 attracted a mate and settled in Oregon’s southwest Cascade Mountains, forming a minuscule pack that officials have named after the Rogue River drainage.
While they may not have the numbers of the eastern Oregon wolf packs, OR-7 and his family do have one distinct advantage: exclusivity. Officials believe that the Rogue Pack, small as it is, is the only group of wolves living in Western Oregon, which places the animals under federal, rather than state, authority. Since the state is currently considering removing protections for wolves in parts of Eastern and Central Oregon, it might mean that OR-7’s pack will be the only one protected under federal law.
“So far the trend in Oregon is the population has been growing steadily and rapidly,” Stephenson said, adding that the state wolf population is now estimated at over 77 individuals.
The Mail Tribune reports that biologists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have been trying to replace OR-7’s GPS collar since early May. The collar will allow scientists to track the pack as well as its interactions with two other wolves that have recently wandered into the Cascades. It is not yet known if the Rogue pack will stay in western Oregon, eventually move east, or even travel south into California.