Endangered Gray Wolf Found Dead After Walking 8,000 Miles To Find Mate
An endangered gray wolf that walked for more than 8,000 miles through Oregon, California and Nevada ‘in search of a mate’ was found dead on Wednesday, February 5.
OR-54 – a female wolf believed to be approximately three or four years old – was found dead in Shasta County, California, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
Her death is currently being investigated by state officials to determine if the animal died from natural causes or was killed intentionally.
OR-54 had travelled approximately 8,712 miles throughout California since she broke from her pack in January 2018, information we know because she was collared by biologists in October 2017. Her radio collar, which was being used to track her, stopped working in December 2019.
The CDFW said in a statement, as per TIME, around the time she broke free from the pack that ‘[h]er departure from the pack’s territory suggests that she may now be dispersing, or exploring new ground in search of a mate or another pack’.
Since then, she spent most of her time in north-eastern California and reportedly covered 1,013 miles between October and December of 2019 alone, average 13 miles per day. This information was recorded just before her collar stopped working.
CDFW said OR-54’s travels ‘represent the southernmost known wolf locations in the state since wolves returned to California in 2011’.
The wolf’s cause of death is yet to be announced, with Amaroq Weiss – a West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity – stating: ‘her death is devastating, no matter the cause’.
This is a tragic development for the early stages of wolf recovery in California. Like her dad, the famous wolf OR-7 who came to California years ago, OR-54 was a beacon of hope who showed that wolves can return and flourish here.
Gray wolves are protected by both the Federal Engendered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act, and killing one is punishable with up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, fewer than a dozen confirmed gray wolves now live in California. Wolves were reportedly wiped out in the early 20th century in the state by a nationwide, government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry.
The animals only began to return to the area in the 2000s, with a gray wolf named OR-7 – believed to be OR-54’s father – being the first confirmed wild wolf in California in nearly 90 years when he entered the state in 2011.
Hopefully the investigation will uncover what really happened to the wolf, and – if the animal was purposefully killed – those responsible will be brought to justice.
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CreditsCalifornia Department of Fish and Wildlife and 2 others
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
The Center for Biological Diversity