By Mark Freeman
Collared gray wolf OR-54 is back in Oregon after a nearly two-month foray into California, and she could again be working for Da Man, giving up the Rogue Pack’s whereabouts if she hooks back up with her former pack as suspected.
One of the daughters of Rogue Pack patriarch OR-7, the 2-year-old female apparently gave up looking for a mate in Northern California last week and returned to southwest Jackson County, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“When she decided to come back, she beelined her way back here,” says Steve Niemela, ODFW’s Rogue District wildlife biologist.
ODFW wolf experts say the timing coincides with when she likely was in heat and in search of a male with which to mate, Niemela says. She likely returned after her potential time for successful mating lapsed, Niemela says.
If she returns to the Rogue Pack, her GPS collar will once again allow state and federal biologists to follow their whereabouts in their normal home range in eastern Jackson and western Klamath counties.
During her departure, biologists lost this tracking ability because no other Rogue Pack wolf is collared. Using OR-54′s collar, biologists were able to pin three livestock kills on the pack last month at a ranch between Prospect and Butte Falls.
“Getting her back is good news for us,” Niemela says. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to monitor them a little better.”
In the meantime, biologists are using trail cameras in the Rogue Pack’s normal haunts in an attempt to verify whether any of last year’s pups have survived the winter, Niemela says. Those cameras also may verify OR-54′s return to the fold, he says.
“It would be good to get a visual of her with other wolves,” Niemela says.
Wolves are listed as endangered in California and Western Oregon under the federal Endangered Species Act.
GPS coordinates showed that OR-54 left Oregon and reached eastern Siskiyou County Jan. 24, and California biologists say she stayed in eastern Siskiyou and Shasta counties during her California stay.
OR-54 could disperse again in six months or a year, so biologists still plan to trap and collar another Rogue Pack member this spring should that occur, Niemela says.