Biologists plan to re-collar wandering Oregon wolf OR-7

Biologists plan to re-collar wandering Oregon wolf OR-7
This composite of two US Fish and Wildlife Service photos taken by a remote camera show OR-7 (at left) and an unidentified female wolf. The two have been seen using the same territory, and GPS data of OR-7's movements suggests the wolves may have denned - and could be rearing pups.

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Biologists plan to recapture and re-collar OR-7, Oregon's famous wandering wolf that is now a settled father of pups.

OR-7 set off in search of a mate in September 2011, covering thousands of meandering miles from his birthplace in northeastern Oregon to Northern California before settling in southwest Oregon. The wolf gained worldwide fame as his GPS tracking collar showed his wanderings across mountains, deserts and highways.

The plan calls for recapturing the male wolf along with his mate and three pups to keep tracking Western Oregon's only known wolf family as it works its way toward pack status.

A federal biologist plans to set foot-hold snares in the area of eastern Jackson County in hopes of capturing at least one of the animals so it can be fitted with a GPS-transmitting collar similar to the one used to track OR-7's 3,000-mile journey that led him here, The Medford Mail Tribune reported Sunday.

"It's kind of the luck of the draw in who you can get," says John Stephenson, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist tracking OR-7 from his Bend office. "It will probably end up one of the pups because they're the most curious."

State and federal biologists have active GPS collars on 12 wolves, and 28 have been collared in Oregon since 2009, one year after the first known wolf migrated from Idaho into Oregon, according to Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Wolf Program.

Oregon updates its wolf population data at the end of December, and last year's end-of-the-year count showed 64 known wolves, Dennehy said.

Oregon has eight known packs, as well as individual wolves and a new group of wolves discovered last month 30 miles north of Enterprise, Dennehy added. Collared animals are in all but two packs and the newly discovered group, she said.

"Having at least one per pack really helps with monitoring," Dennehy says. "Recollaring OR-7 will help track this group of wolves."

Not only are the devices used for locating and tracking the packs, they can also help biologists determine breeding success. OR-7's GPS coordinates helped lead to photographs of his mate and pups earlier this year. Knowing their locations also allows the agency to warn farmers and ranchers when a pack is close to them, and the coordinates can be used to verify predation loss, Dennehy said.

Since he was collared, OR-7 has never been associated with livestock depredation, though his former pack was involved in livestock predation before and after he was collared, Dennehy said.

Right now, OR-7 and his family are considered a group of wolves. The definition for a pack is four or more wolves traveling together in winter, she added.

They will not be considered an official breeding pair until at least one of the new pups survives through December.

"Often we don't make those distinctions until winter," she said.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/ 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press