It appears that Journey’s mate made the same arduous trip he did, but without the fanfare. The black female, who is now mother to a litter of pups, is most likely from a pack in northeast Oregon.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, scat samples were collected in May and June of this year from the southwest Cascades where Journey and his family reside. The scat was examined by scientists at the Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics at the University of Idaho. Results reveal that the black female is related to wolves in the Snake River and Minam packs of northeast Oregon, perhaps at the half-sibling or aunt-uncle level to the alpha females of these packs.
However, as John Stephenson biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service points out, “It could be she also came from an Idaho pack that had dispersers. She may not be the girl next door, but it’s possible. That’s the neat part of the story. It was kind of a needle in a haystack once she did get out all this way. It shows they have ways of finding each other.”
The genetic study also showed that the black female is all wolf, not a wolf-dog hybrid as a few has believed.
Wherever she’s from, Wandering Wanda, as some folks call her, went on a very long walk-about. And because she doesn’t wear a collar no one was aware of her travels. This is in sharp contrast to Journey’s trip, one that’s been followed by thousands of people across the globe as his GPS coordinates were shared (after the fact, for safety reasons) by the Oregon and California Departments of Fish and Wildlife.
The mysterious black female is an enigma, one that evokes many questions. We wonder not only where she is from but what travails she may have met in her travels. Did she bring down deer or elk on her own or did she rely on carcasses and small game? It appears she stayed away from livestock or we certainly would have heard about that. And how did she end up in the same location as Journey? No doubt it was not happenstance. ODFW spokesperson Michelle Dennehy reports that wolves follow scent markings left by other wolves that leave their homeland to seek new territory. This makes sense, however, Journey left his family of origin three years ago. Do scent trails last that long?
Wanda’s story is fascinating and we certainly don’t need or expect to have all the answers. It’s good enough to know that she is there and that wild wolves have instincts and skills and sometimes sheer luck that allow them to perform such miraculous feats. There is certainly a larger force at work here as well. Wolves and other large predators are returning to their native lands all across the world, despite the obstacles of humanity that cross their paths. This lends hope to an otherwise despairing situation, where wolves continue to be killed for being wolves.
Good luck to Journey, Wanda, and their pups. May they roam the wilderness of southeast Oregon and into California as well, helping to return the landscape to the true and diverse wilderness it once was and perhaps will be again.