A gray wolf named OR-93 allegedly walked over 1,000 miles from his home near Mount Hood, Oregon. Residents in Ventura County, California saw him in late September. The 2-year-old male wolf belongs to the White River pack in Oregon.
“If this is OR-93, he’s traveled the farthest south we’ve seen since 1922 when one was captured in San Bernardino,” said a spokesperson for the California Fish and Wildlife Department.
The wolf had on a purple tracking collar that wildlife officials in Oregon fit him with before his trek south. The collar stopped transmitting in April, and officials want to locate the wolf to give him a new collar.
He’s been staying away from cities or heavily populated areas, but he did manage to cross two major interstates. Said Jordan Traverso of the California Fish and Wildlife Department, “If this wolf is in Ventura County, you’re starting to get closer into the Santa Barbara area. But this is the northern [part of the county]. It’s very rural. It’s not like he’s at the beach with a whole bunch of people or anything like that.”
When the wolf passed through Tuolumne County, agricultural commissioner Kelle Schroeder reminded residents of the gray wolf’s protected status in California. “We would like to remind everyone that gray wolves are covered under the Endangered Species Act in California,” said Schroeder. “It is unlawful to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, or capture gray wolves.”
In 2011, another Oregon wolf, OR-7, ventured into California as well, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Two packs have formed in California as a result; the Shasta Pack, last monitored in 2015, and the Lassen Pack which had a litter in 2020.
Gray wolves became extirpated in California in the 1920s and nearly wiped out in the United States in the 30s. But because of wandering individuals like OR-7 and OR-93, wolves are reintroducing themselves to the state.
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“There is an urgent and massive requirement to restore the ecology of our degraded lands after centuries of overgrazing by sheep and deer,” he said. “We’ve got to have a big, functioning ecosystem or else there isn’t going to be enough oxygen or insects to pollinate crops or vegetation to stop flooding.”
For Dennis, wolves are an integral part of the ecosystem. Wildlife conservation officials should reintroduce them to the landscape at the risk of some farmers losing sheep. “To make any sense,” Dennis continued, “ecological restoration has got to take over I think 50% of the land and sea. Others say 30%.”
Meaning, by restoring wolves to the land, they will hunt the excess deer and sheep. This lets the natural landscape flourish again. This can prevent floods, provide oxygen, and encourage future pollination.