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Photo of 2 wolf pups.

Two pups peek out from a log this week in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. They're offspring of the wolf known as OR7.

Photograph courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Emma Marris

for National Geographic

Published June 5, 2014

In what may herald a new era of wolf expansion into the West Coast, a lone male wolf that gained fame by wandering hundreds of miles west of any known wolf pack in the lower 48 states has become a father.

The so-called westernmost wolf, which wears a collar transmitting his GPS coordinates and is known as OR7, recently settled down on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in southwestern Oregon to what was expected to be a life of solitude.

But in early May, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who study the wolf were stunned to see photos of what looked like a dark black female caught by the same motion-triggered cameras that capture images of OR7. It looked very much as if the lone wolf of the West had found a mate. How she got there remains a mystery.

On June 2, government biologists visited the site, in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and saw and photographed two pups. There may well be more, as most wolf litters include between four and six pups. Biologist John Stephenson says he thinks he heard more pups.

The pups are the first known wolf reproduction in the Oregon Cascades since the mid-1940s, according to the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. At the end of last year, the department counted 64 wolves in the state, most of them in the northwest corner.

Photo of the OR7 wolf.
This remote camera photo of OR7 was taken in May on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land in Oregon.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Searching for More Pups

To find the pups, the biologists used information from OR7's collar to find the den's location, which they are keeping secret. They then hiked into the dense forest. Stephenson had noticed a little clearing on aerial photos, and stationed himself along the edge. "They like to use openings and sit in the sun just like our dogs do in the mornings," he says.

Patient waiting paid off, and soon two frolicking pups appeared. When Stephenson turned on his camera to photograph them, the wolves heard the tiny electronic noise and retreated to a log. When they poked their cautious noses out again, he was able to get the shot.

To count as on official breeding pair, and thus as a "pack," according to the state's wolf management plan, OR7 and his mate must have two pups survive until December 31. So Stephenson and his colleagues will head back out later to put a new collar on one of the parents, as OR7's collar batteries are wearing out.

They are also notifying those permitted to graze livestock in the area. But other than that, the biologists will just watch and hope for the best. "What we mainly do as managers is make sure they stay out of trouble," says Stephenson.

He expects the pups to disperse and form their own packs, if they survive. As they are quite close to the California border, the next pack may well be in that state.

When OR7 crossed into California from its native Oregon three years ago, the animal became the first known wolf in the state since 1924. The crossing brought OR7 national notoriety.

Protecting Wolves

Coincidentally, on the same day that biologists released the news about the pup this week, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect wolves under the state Endangered Species Act.

"No land animal is more iconic in the American West than the gray wolf," Michael Sutton, the head of the commission, said in a statement. "Wolves deserve our protection as they begin to disperse from Oregon to their historic range in California."

Some area politicians are less welcoming towards the canines.

"I cannot imagine why anyone would propagate wolves in a region where cattle are being run, other than trying to remove the cattle," says State Senator Doug Whitsett, who represents several southeastern Oregon counties. "It worked in Idaho and Montana, and now they are trying it in southern Oregon. It took the state of Oregon over 100 years to eradicate these things. Now we are putting them back into place."

Stephenson, the biologist who has been on the receiving end of OR7's collar data for years, was pleased to see the pups. He spoke from the side of the road near Bend, Oregon, where he was fielding a long string of reporter's calls.

"I am getting a lot of calls, and these pups are pretty cute," he says.

Follow Emma Marris on Twitter.

25 comments
KENNETH LANE
KENNETH LANE

How totally wonderful!  Hope the stupid among us do not harm them--

Miles Monroe
Miles Monroe

"'I cannot imagine why anyone would propagate wolves in a region where cattle are being run, other than trying to remove the cattle,' says State Senator Doug Whitsett"

Yes! Exactly! Eliminate *all* sheep and cattle grazing from public open lands, and dial way, way back on the extractive industries - timber, mining, oil, etc - while we're at it.

For a goat-roper, this Senator Whitsett sure does catch on quick ...

CLINTON A.
CLINTON A.

Guaranteed. Someone will shoot them.


craig hill
craig hill

So the wolf crossed into California, as if there was a boundary for him to cross. Borders are nothing but oppressive for the European who invented and foolishly agreed to impose them on itself. The wolf is free to cross them so long as no member of the violent ape family notices and goes berserk, as is his imbecilic nature.

Carol Manka
Carol Manka

Wonderful news. I will think positive thoughts for the safety of this new wolf family in my meditation time.  I agree with Marc: we need to achieve and keep a natural balance.

Marc Myers
Marc Myers

The ancestors of today's wolves were the apex predators on this continent long before humans ever showed up.  Wolves and native Americans coexisted with mutual respect and little difficulty.  Without wolves, large herbivores' populations grow to unsustainable levels.  Without wolves, less viable herbivores survive and reproduce, weakening the gene pool.  If we want to return to any kind of self-regulating ecosystem, we need wolves

Shoshone Creek
Shoshone Creek

Wolves are everywhere!  They are over populating north america and the globe!


Whoops...a slight to above.  I meant HUMANS instead of wolves are everywhere and

overopulating north America!


End tax deductions for dependent children and instead give deductions for not having big families!  Yes, the Mormons and Catholics will object but make no mistake, the humans were over populating the planet and we are on a path to self destruction.


318 million Americans....on a land mass that can sustain around 175 million people!  


Wolves are everywhere - not!

Jonathan Sweemer
Jonathan Sweemer

I have a Keeshond puppy and I see glimpses of a wolf in him from time to time.  Let's keep the earth a place for all creatures as long as we can.

susan teays
susan teays

Wolves have been with humans since the beginning. . .hopefully they will be there until our end. 

susan howard
susan howard

Wolves are fabulous creatures.. very misunderstood.  We need to keep them protected.

It should be illegal to destroy such a wonderful animal...

Claire Fremuth
Claire Fremuth

Absolutely despicable that State Senator Doug Whitsett sees wolves as things to be eradicated. Humans took their home from them, how dare one of us says they can't have it back.

Jonathan Patzer
Jonathan Patzer

@KENNETH LANE Unfortunately, there are too many trigger-happy hicks in Southern Oregon. If it wasn't for people in Northwestern Oregon, the whole state would be a mini-Texas, and we definitely do not need anyone like Rick Perry being in charge of our beautiful state. If one of these far right-winged idiots were in charge, selective logging would go back to clear-cutting, sheep and cattle would be grazing in our national forests, and some Tea-Party idiot might come up with the idea of drilling for oil in a place where it doesn't exist-like when Palin said we could drill for oil in the Everglades. What I don't get is why most Republicans call themselves conservative but don't want to conserve nature for future Americans to enjoy it. They need to take a lesson from Teddy Roosevelt--a Republican that created the National Park system to conserve the beauty of nature--including Wolves. Here's to hoping OR-7 will produce many offspring that help restore the balance of nature from California to Canada. I can't wait until the day that I see an Oregon Wolf for the first time.

Miles Monroe
Miles Monroe


@CLINTON A.   Yes, it really does suck there's so many stupid a-holes out there, that's for sure.  Maybe *those* are what we should have a bounty on ...

craig hill
craig hill

@Marc Myers That's the problem, like damn fools, the authorities we have allowed to trash self-regulating ecosystems do not want them.

joseph yechout
joseph yechout

@susan teays Yeah,  and the far Left agree with the 

NWO types that they, our betters, need to reduce  the population  of the earth anyway.  Of people that is. 

Hooray for Eugenics.

craig hill
craig hill

@Claire Fremuth There is a certain type of something-or-other in your post that needs exterminating, for the sake of the planet.

Jonathan Patzer
Jonathan Patzer

@Jeff H. @Michael Wingfield I, for one, would not mind giving beef up. There are plenty of other sources of protein that I can eat--chicken, pork, seafood...    ...Cow's milk on the other hand, I do not think I could replace.

craig hill
craig hill

@joseph yechout @susan teays You're a global exterminating rightwing supporter of Big Brother aka Big Corporations that have hollowed out and taken over government for their (your?) selfish, anti-social purproses. If you're not with 'em, you're their dupe.

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