Famous Oregon wolf that trekked to California has puppies

Wed Jun 4, 2014 10:02pm EDT
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By Shelby Sebens

PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - An Oregon gray wolf famous for roaming in and out of California in search of a mate sired at least two pups, playing his part in the first known wolf breeding in the Cascade Mountain Range within Oregon since the 1940s, officials said on Wednesday. 

OR-7, a wolf so named as he was the seventh of his species ever collared in Oregon with a tracking device, made headlines in December 2011 when he turned up in northern California, becoming the first wild specimen confirmed in the Golden state in 87 years.

Since March 2013, OR-7 has spent most of his time in the Cascade Range of southwestern Oregon, but was believed to have returned to California twice earlier this year.

Last month, Oregon wildlife officials said they believed the gray wolf may have found a mate, and on Wednesday they said biologists confirmed the pair produced offspring in the Cascade Range, with two pups spotted on camera in a den.

John Stephenson, wolf biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that since April, OR-7 has been traveling to find food and returning to the den.

"Each day he comes back to the spot, so he's been coming back to the den area on a daily basis for a month and half," Stephenson said. "He's definitely taking care of the pups." 

Wolves in Oregon and elsewhere across the continental United States were hunted to extinction decades ago. But they were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in the 1990s, and some later migrated to the state from Idaho.

Oregon's wolf population is now estimated to number more than 60 animals.   Continued...

A wolf roaming the same area as OR 7 is seen in this undated Oregon Fish & Wildlife handout photo taken with a remote camera. REUTERS/Oregon Fish & Wildlife/Handout