The lone wolf
OR7 wanders into Butte County
The wolf who wandered into California from Oregon Dec. 28, garnering news coverage up and down the state, has made his way to Butte County. OR7, as the 3-year-old wild canine was dubbed, is wearing a radio collar and being tracked by the California Department of Fish and Game.
According to the DFG, he was in southwestern Lassen County on June 22 and crossed into Plumas County a few days later. On June 28, he entered northeastern Butte County and was last tracked Sunday, July 9, just northeast of Chico.
DFG spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said the actions are not unusual for a wolf his age.
“His behavior may be a result of natural competition among the males in the pack,” she said, “seeking out a mate or better mating status in another pack, or seeking out a new food source if the original pack has over-bred or there is a limited amount of prey in the area.”
Traverso noted that OR7 does not present a danger to humans, as wolves generally fear and avoid people. In recent years, the lone fatality attributed to a wolf took place in Alaska, said Traverso. Another fatality was reported in Canada, but it’s unknown whether wolves or a bear was the cause.
There have been 18 reports of wolf aggression toward humans in North America in the past 40 years, Traverso said. Eleven of those involved wolves that had become “habituated” to humans, and six involved the wolves going after domesticated dogs that were close to the humans.
“Wolves can become habituated to humans in areas where they regularly encounter humans or human food,” she said. “To avoid habituation, wolves, like all other wildlife, should never be fed or approached.”
She said OR7 faces dangers of his own: He could run out of food or water, get mistaken for a coyote and shot by a hunter or rancher, or “have his heart broken because he can’t find a mate since there is only one documented wolf in the state.”
Another DFG employee, Dana Michaels, said OR7 had been seen in May cavorting with coyotes in Modoc County, leading her to speculate that “he’s looking for love in all the wrong places.”
DFG is purposely vague on giving the wolf’s exact location for his own protection.
Traverso said it’s impossible to predict OR7’s next moves, noting he went back to Oregon once during his journey, but then came back here.
“He could stay here,” she said. “And if one wolf can get here, likely others have the ability to do the same, meaning there is potential for future re-colonization, which could lead him to stay.”
Wolves have been absent from California since the last one was trapped and killed in Lassen County in 1924. That one was old, emaciated, missing part of a hind leg and weighed 56 pounds.
In other wild-animal news, a bald eagle born at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge near Willows last April took his first flight July 1. Refuge officials say it was a pretty big deal, since the eaglet is the first to be born at the site because eagles rarely nest away from lakes, rivers or the ocean. They do congregate at the refuge in the winter to dine on the migrating waterfowl that come through the Sacramento Valley, but breeding eagles are not typically found during the summer in the valley.
Lora Haller, a park ranger at the refuge, said the parents tried building a nest last year but it was blown away by a storm. Undeterred, they built another this year. The unnamed male eaglet will stay with his parents into September or October and then fly off on his own.
“It takes them until about age 5 to start to breed,” Haller said. “They will start wandering around, finding territories, learning the ups and downs of life, and hunting before they find a mate and location.
“By themselves, if healthy and strong, they really don’t have any predators other than man. If they are ill crows or ravens might try to gang up on them, but as long as they’re healthy and strong they are pretty fine.”