Journey–The Lone Wolf

It was revealed on Monday that over the weekend, Journey, Oregon’s wandering wolf, crossed the border into California once again. He didn’t stay long before returning to the Southern Cascades of Oregon. Karen Kovacs, Wildlife Program Manager with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that the wolf was following migrating deer and elk.

OR 7 in Modoc County, CA 2012

OR 7 in Modoc County, CA 2012

Dispersal is a normal behavior for wolves, although few travel as far or for as long as Journey. He has gone over 3,000 miles since leaving the Imnaha pack in the northeast corner of Oregon in September of 2011. I remember that time well. I left the same area a few weeks behind him after attending a rural writing retreat along the Imnaha River. Driving home, I watched for OR 7 (he hadn’t earned the name Journey yet) as I made the long trip back to southern Oregon. I didn’t see him of course, but it was wonderful thinking that the dispersing wolf might be traveling the same route I was.

And as it turned out, he did. We both meandered in a southwesterly direction, through the John Day Wilderness Area, west toward Bend, then due south, the wolf utilizing the land bridge of the Cascades to travel on. He entered western Oregon, outside of Roseburg, on November 1, 2011.  And long after I was home, OR 7 wandered into my part of the state and has made this area his territory for the last ten months. Oregon Wild’s website has great details on Journey and his trip, including maps.

But Journey has been outdone. In the early 1990s, a wolf named Pluie (French for rain) far exceeded Journey’s travels. She dispersed over 45,000 miles in two years, roaming through Canada and the northwestern US. She traveled even further than this but her radio collar was damaged by a bullet (armor-good use for radio collars!) and stopped working. Sadly, she was fatally shot, along with her two pups, two years later in  Canada.

(Addendum: I’ve been questioned about the distance traveled by Pluie. Taz Alago states that the wolf traveled within an area of 40,000 miles, which is much different from traveling that distance in a straight line. My source may need to correct herself as well,  I’ll look into that. Go to the Y2Y site for details on Pluie. Thanks for noting this, Taz. I always appreciate it when someone catches me up on details–not my forte!)

What an amazing wolf! Pluie’s travels inspired the formation of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), an organization dedicated to preserving connective places for animal migration.

Journey turns four next April and his GPS/VHF collar was placed in February of 2011, when he was a yearling.  When I was in Joseph, Oregon last month I learned that the battery on Journey’s radio collar may last until the end of 2014, although the VHF capacity would continue after this. We asked Russ Morgan and Roblyn Brown at that meeting if there were plans to recollar Journey, to ensure the ability to keep track of him. The state wolf biologists explained that first of all, the decision would not be theirs because Journey is now under the jurisdiction of the USFWS, specifically wolf coordinator John Stephenson.


OR 14

Secondly, Roblyn and Russ doubted that our interest level in this one lone wolf would warrant the effort, expense, and risk involved in locating, tranquilizing and recollaring Journey. Finding wild wolves is not easy. It involves a spotter plan and a helicopter, as well as a lot of staff people. And the people in the air sustain a high degree of risk,  in bad weather especially.

The risk to the wolf is an issue as well. Remember that OR 7’s sister died shortly after she was tranquilized (at the same time as Journey). Nothing definitive was found in the autopsy but the timing infers that it may have been related to her capture. These things happen, usually due to no fault of the humans involved. I recall similar incidents in the zoo world, where I grew up. Despite the extreme caution my father (zoo director) and the veterinarians used, sometimes an animal went under and didn’t come out. It can go the other way too. Once, a leopard we believed to be completely sedated, woke up suddenly and attacked my dad. This was a large male cat, weighing at least 175 pounds. He was at our facility temporarily, so we didn’t know him and he didn’t know us, contributing to the problem. The leopard knocked my dad down and proceeded to work his sharp teeth through my father’s winter coat until a keeper (a former boxer and a fearless man) jumped in and inserted his steel-toed boot firmly into the big cat’s mouth, allowing my dad to escape. He sustained some serious bite wounds but was happy to be alive.

In a year or so Journey may become even more of a lone wolf, one that isn’t under constant observation via the computers of the Oregon or California Department of Fish and Wildlife Service. He’s been wise so far, staying away from livestock and dodging traffic on Interstate 5 and other main thoroughfares. But we’ll worry about him more when we don’t hear occasional reports, reassuring us that he’s OK out there, living his solitary wolf life.

This brief video, taken by ODFW staff, was taken in December of 2010.

12 thoughts on “Journey–The Lone Wolf

  1. Hey Beckie
    Nice post. Loved that you also mentioned Pluie. Also love that you raise the mixed issues of whether to recapture/recollar or not. Always troubling to me, due to the risk factors for the wolves involved.

    I sent out a PR about OR7 earlier this week – but so frazzled I am not sure if I included you in my blind cc.
    Will send it to you separately, though it’s too late for this column.



    • You did send me the email, Amaroq, and its not to late for others to read this important message from you and The Center for Biological Diversity. Here it is!

      For Immediate Release, December 10, 2013

      Contact: Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613

      California’s Lone Wolf Returns, Highlighting Need for Wolf Protection Under
      State’s Endangered Species Act

      SAN FRANCISCO— California’s first confirmed wild wolf in nearly 90 years made a return trip to the Golden State for a brief visit this past weekend. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the wolf called OR-7 crossed the border into Siskiyou County on Dec. 7, then returned to Oregon. His brief foray back into California supports the position advanced by wolf advocates that wolves from Oregon will continue to make their way into the state and that the species thus warrants protection under California’s Endangered Species Act.

      “As sure as anything in nature, more wolves will be crossing the line into California,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned the state in February 2012 to grant endangered species protections to wolves. “Anyone who says wolves don’t need state protection because there are no wolves here today isn’t facing up to the scientific reality: Wolves are coming.”

      The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is native to California but was driven to extinction here by the mid-1920s. In fall 2011 wolf OR-7 left his birthpack in northeastern Oregon, crossed into California, and spent 15 months ranging across California’s seven northeastern-most counties before returning to Oregon in March of 2013. He reentered California briefly in April, so this new visit is the second this year.

      “Scientists have identified more than 50,000 square miles of suitable wolf habitat in California, so no one should be surprised that OR-7 finds it suitable too,” said Weiss. “And other wolves will follow.”

      In February 2012 the Center for Biological Diversity and three allies filed a petition with the state Fish and Game Commission seeking full state protections for gray wolves. The commission agreed that listing might be warranted and directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a 12-month status review and report back with a final recommendation. The status review has been completed, and agency officials have indicated they are leaning against listing — largely because OR-7 had left the state.

      “When we make policy on wildlife, reality has to trump politics, because nature won’t be fooled,” said Weiss. “Wolves, who are blissfully unaware of the lines on our maps, will keep coming back to California, where they once roamed freely. It’s our duty to keep them safe when they cross that invisible line.”

      Gray wolves are currently protected in California under the federal Endangered Species Act but a pending federal proposal to strip wolves of protections across most of the lower 48 could leave wolves entering California with insufficient protections if the state decides against listing wolves.

      The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


  2. That’s amazing video. I understand the drawbacks of recollaring Journey, but it would be sad not to know where he is at, if he was thriving. I think it’s kind of sad, too, that he doesn’t have a pack to pass on his intrepid genes. Here’s to you, Journey.


    • Thanks for the comment, sister Michelle! I agree, it is a shame he doesn’t have a mate. Perhaps that will still happen, if more wolves disperse or if they are already in the southern Cascades and find each other. Let’s hope so!

      Do you remember when that leopard woke up like he’d be playing dead and went after Dad?


  3. Beckie. Bravo! Have not had much to make me smile lately. Thank you for changing that. Marc

    Ps. Happy holidays and hope all is well

    Sent from my iPhone



  4. Thanks Becky. I am glad to have been updated. Thanks so much. I hope that you get to enjoy your family over Christmas:)

    Jeremy xxx

    Sent from my iPhone ( so pleases Becky excuse any typos).

    This e-mail message and any attachment(s) transmitted with it are intended only for the use of the recipient(s) named above. This message may be privileged and/or confidential. If you are not an intended recipient, you may not review, copy or distribute this message. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail and delete the original message.



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