OR-7 -- or Journey, as Oregon's well-known wandering gray wolf is called -- might have found the mate he's spent the past three years searching for. Since leaving his home pack in 2011, Journey has trekked thousands of miles by himself, avoiding car accidents, starvation or even being shot by humans -- all to fulfill the evolutionary goal of starting a new pack. Now, the Associated Press reports, biologists believe the wolf finally may be a father:
Officials said cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the southern Cascades captured several images of what appears to be a female wolf in the same area where OR-7's GPS collar shows he has been living. ... U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson said it is not proof, but it is likely the two wolves mated over the winter and are rearing pups that would have been born in April. Biologists won't start looking for a den until June, to avoid endangering the pups.
Wolves have been experiencing a population rebound in eastern Oregon, where the majority live, despite the loss of some federal protections for the endangered species in the area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to determine whether it will reduce wolf protections further across the country by the end of the year -- a decision many animal welfare groups oppose. Advocates are urging the government to keep wolves on the endangered species list, as well as fighting state laws (like those in Idaho) that allow people to hunt the animals privately.