Wolf OR-7 meanders back into Jackson County

Wandering wolf OR-7 is now in the second week in his latest stint as a local lobo in Jackson County, where he's feeding on a dead elk, but apparently still looking for love.

The 4-year-old wolf crossed the Cascade Crest on March 19 to re-enter Jackson County, which he last left April 1 as part of his much-watched dispersal from his northeast Oregon pack into southwest Oregon and on to Northern California.

Since his return, he's wandered along the West Cascades east of Butte Falls and Prospect and has shared meals on a dead cow elk with at least one coyote and some ravens, says Mark Vargas, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District wildlife biologist.

Vargas last week used a VHF receiver to follow the radio transmitter that, along with a GPS transmitter, is on a collar that state and federal biologists have used to track OR-7's now famous walkabout.

Vargas got a strong signal from the transmitter, indicating a close presence, but he never got a visual on the only confirmed wolf in Western Oregon since 1937.

He did find fresh wolf tracks in the snow.

"But it was just a single set of tracks," Vargas says. "He's alone."The tracks led to a mostly picked-over cow elk carcass, surrounded by coyote and raven tracks, Vargas says.

"It was an interesting find," he says.

The elk likely died on its own during the winter and probably was not killed by OR-7, he says.

"There's no indication that he killed it," Vargas says. "There was no sign of a struggle."

Vargas installed a game camera trained on what's left of the carcass. He previously set other cameras in that same area as part of a Pacific fisher study.

"I'm hoping he gets in front of one of those things," Vargas says. "I'm hoping to get a picture."

— Mark Freeman

Read more in Wednesday's paper.

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