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Endangered Gray Wolf Found Dead After Walking 8,000 Miles To Find Mate

by : Lucy Connolly on : 09 Feb 2020 11:33
Endangered gray wolfEndangered gray wolfUS Fish and Wildlife Service/PA Images

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.

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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.

Grey WolfGrey WolfUS Fish and Wildlife Service/PA Images

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.

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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.

Gray WolvesGray WolvesPA Images

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’.

Weiss continued:

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.

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gray wolfgray wolfUS Fish and Wildlife Service

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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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, California, endangered, endangered species, Gray Wolf, wildlife

Credits

California Department of Fish and Wildlife and 2 others
  1. California Department of Fish and Wildlife

    GPS Collared Wolf Enters California From Oregon

  2. TIME

    Endangered Gray Wolf Found Dead in California After Traveling Nearly 8,000 Miles Without a Pack

  3. The Center for Biological Diversity

    Endangered Wolf Found Dead in California, Officials Investigating