Photos show Southern Oregon’s fledgling wolf pack
By Eric Mortenson
Trail camera photos released by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service show OR-7’s pups are thriving in Southern Oregon.
Photo’s on the agency’s website http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/Species/Data/GrayWolf/PhotoGallery.asp#July24 show two pups, and wildlife biologist John Stephenson said there could be three or more. Stephenson photographed two pups peering out from under a log when he and another researchers were looking for the fledgling pack in June, and he heard what may have been other pups scurrying off in the timber.
Black and white photos on the agency’s website were taken this month by a remote camera that is triggered by a motion detector. One clearly shows a pup with big feet, much like a young dog that will grow into a much larger adult. Stephenson estimated the pups weight about 35 pounds now.
“They look like they’re doing well,” Stephenson said.
Another photo shows OR-7 himself, the wandering wolf that left Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County in 2011 and cut a diagonal path across the state and into California, becoming the first wolf documented in that state since 1924.
In May, the wildlife service announced OR-7 had apparently found a mate, an unknown black female, and pair most likely had denned together and produced pups in an undisclosed location deep in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. She’s also been photographed this month, trotting down a forest road with what appears to be a bone in her mouth.
The area where the wolves were photographed is a “rendezvous site” where the pups stay while the adults hunt, Stephenson said. The family has moved several times as the pups have grown and are better able to travel.
Stephenson said there’s been speculation that the female is a hybrid that escaped or was turned loose by its owner, but he discounts that.
“There’s no evidence that an animal of domestic origin is out in the wild,” he said. He and another researcher have collected wolf scat for DNA testing, which may determine the female’s origin. All known Oregon wolves are related to wolves released in the state from Idaho.
Stephenson said the battery on OR-7’s radio collar, which he’s worn since 2011, is weakening and the signal is being picked up by satellite less frequently than in the past. Researchers want to re-collar him or put a collar on the female, but will wait until late summer or early fall to do so, he said. Right now is a “challenging time” for the pair because they are feeding pups, Stephenson said.