Friday, September 5, 2014

Oregon wolf OR-7: Lab tests show mate wandered far to find him

Photo from July 12 showing two gray pups confirms that Oregon's erstwhile wandering wolf, OR-7, has at least three pups that were born in April. Photos by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jerry Casey |

By Lynne Terry |
on September 05, 2014

Oregon's erstwhile wandering wolf OR-7 truly met one of his own when he mated with a small black female earlier this year: She, too, is a traveler and perhaps even from northeast Oregon as well. DNA tests on her scat indicate she came from northeast Oregon or even Idaho. She shares bloodlines with the Minam and Snake River packs, which include wolves from both those areas, said John Stephenson, wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That means she traveled several hundred miles or more to the western Cascades where she mated with OR-7 earlier this year. "It's fascinating that after dispersing such a great distance to an area where there are so few wolves that they were able to find one another," Stephenson said.

OR-7 was born into the Imnaha Pack in northeast Oregon, then traveled several thousand miles to California and back to Oregon looking for territory and a mate. The two produced offspring in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in April.

Biologists gathered scat from the area in May and July and sent the samples to the University of Idaho for DNA testing. They also collected images of OR-7's mate and three pups, all snapped by stationary, motion-detecting cameras in the wilderness.

The results do not pin down the birthplace of the small, black female but indicate her heritage.
"It doesn't give us a lot of specific information," said Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. But the tests do reveal a healthy mixing of the genetic pool in Northwest packs, he said. "It's a sign of health, just like in any wildlife or humans," he said.

They tests also prove the female is a Canis lupus. When news of OR-7's mate first surfaced, doubters insisted she wasn't a wolf at all but a dog that had gone feral. biologists knew that wasn't the case, based on her behavior. Now science backs that up.


The DNA tests also show that the pups are the pair's offspring. Images of three have been captured, though there are likely more.

Stephenson and Morgan plan to trek into the forest to try to replace OR-7's collar which is fading. Near the end of its lifespan, it will eventually stop sending GPS coordinates. The trip has not been set yet, but Morgan said they could set out at the end of this month. "We don't have a specific date but we're hoping this fall," Morgan said. "With capture, there is never a guarantee."

The biologists hope to trap one of the adults to track the pack as part of their wildlife management program. There are grazing allotments in the area and could be livestock kills. They'll also collar one of the offspring if they catch one but the pups are likely to travel as well -- just as their parents did -- to find territory and a pack of their own.

-- Lynne Terry

source