Monday 10 February 2020

The endangered wolf that walked 8,712 miles to find love

Wolf known as OR-54 left home in Oregon in search of a mate, and scientists tracked her progress – until she died last week

A young female gray wolf bid goodbye to her family, left home and crossed the state line into California to find love.

That was in January 2018. For the next two years, the wolf known by scientists OR-54 wandered through mountains and pastures, occasionally killing livestock for food.

Along the way, scientists tracked OR-54’s movements through a radio transmitter collar.

Twice she went home to her parents in Oregon, perhaps complaining of the lack of dates. She even crossed the state line into Nevada last fall. All the while, she kept walking – an average of 13 miles each day – in search of a mate.

Leaving home is a normal thing for a young wolf, says Amaroq Weiss, a biologist at the environmental not-for-profit Center for Biological Diversity. “When wolves get to one and a half or two years old, they are striking out from their birth pack, they are out there looking for mates and territory of their own,” says Weiss.

Even within her family, this was a common thing: OR-54’s father, OR-7, had looked for a mate in California for years before returning to Oregon to have pups.

OR-54’s story sadly came to a close this week when she was found dead in Shasta county. California’s fish and wildlife department is doing a necropsy to determine the cause of her death; she was only three years old. OR-54’s journey took her further south in California than any other wolf since 1924, when the species was extirpated.

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