Gray wolf OR-7 may be quite long in the tooth, but he’s still got what it takes in the den.
Federal wolf biologists released new trail-camera footage Tuesday showing that OR-7 and his mate had three pups this spring.
This is the fifth consecutive year that Oregon’s celebrity canis lupus had at least one pup.
OR-7, more than 9 years old, has now sired 16 known pups. Not bad for a grandpa.
“It’s not unprecedented, but it sure is a long run,” said John Stephenson, the Bend-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist tracking OR-7 and his Rogue Pack. “They’ve been in there a long time.”
The trail-camera footage was shot July 7 and clearly shows three different wolves running around or mugging for the camera on what appears to be a backwoods forest road.
“It seems pretty clear that it’s three,” Stephenson said. “We’ve had enough footage of them that if there were more, we would have seen them.”
The pack’s den is in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in eastern Jackson County, though the den was in a slightly different location this year, Stephenson said.
State and federal biologists last October were able to collar one of OR-7’s daughters, which was dubbed OR-54 because it was the 54th collar on an Oregon wolf. However, that wolf left the pack, and biologists failed to trap a Rogue Pack member this spring, Stephenson said.
Biologists plan to get a collar on a Rogue Pack member via trapping this fall, Stephenson said.
Steve Niemela, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said biologists are already prepping to collar a Rogue Pack individual and setting up more trail cameras to follow the animals as they move around their regular area.
The Rogue Pack in the past has retreated into higher elevations in late summer, often to the vast Sky Lakes Wilderness Area.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good idea where they are this fall,” Niemela said.
Born in spring 2009 to the Imnaha Pack, OR-7 was collared and left in 2011, striking out on his own in search of a mate and territory for his own pack.
He traveled south and west until he crossed the Cascade crest in late October, becoming the first wolf in western Oregon since 1937. On Nov. 13, 2011, he crossed into Jackson County for the first time from Klamath County, then ventured to Northern California, where he was the Golden State’s first known wolf since 1924.
OR-7 eventually found his mate, and in 2014 he fathered the first wolf pack in southwestern Oregon in more than six decades.
One of his male pups in 2016 left the Rogue Pack for Northern California, where it found a mate in Lassen County. They had their first litter of three pups in 2017.