When last we heard about the famous Oregon wolf known as OR7, conservationists, animal lovers, and wildlife officials were cheering the news last month that the once-lonely wolf had finally found a mate, and it was suspected that the two might be rearing pups.
Now comes historic verification.
Wildlife biologists confirmed Monday that wolf OR7 and a mate have produced at least two pups in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, making it the first known wolf reproduction in the Oregon Cascades since the mid-1940s.
"This is very exciting news," said Paul Henson, state supervisor of the Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office. "It continues to illustrate that gray wolves are being recovered."
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the USFWS made the announcement on Wednesday, the same day the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect gray wolves under the state's Endangered Species Act.
"No land animal is more iconic in the American West than the gray wolf," commission president Michael Sutton said. "Wolves deserve our protection as they begin to disperse from Oregon to their historic range in California."
The gray wolf is already federally listed as an endangered species and is therefore protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in California. The federal Endangered Species Act makes it unlawful to take any listed wildlife unless permitted by regulation. The term "take" means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct. The protection provided under federal law overlaps, but does not supersede, protection provided by listing under California law.
Oregon wolves are already listed in the state's Endangered Species Act. ODFW reports that there are 64 known wolves in Oregon, mostly in the northeast corner of the state.
OR7 was born in the Imnaha wolf pack in northeast Oregon in April 2009. Wildlife officials collared it on Feb. 25, 2011, allowing them to track it closely.
Seven months later, OR7 made headlines after traversing 700 miles of Oregon wilderness and crossing into California to become the first known wolf in the state since 1924.
Since March 2013, OR7 has lived in the southwest Cascades. Last month, remote cameras captured a photo that appeared to be a black female wolf in the same area as OR7, so wildlife officials suspected a potential for pups.
Wildlife officials returned to the area Monday and photographed the two pups you see in the photo at the top. It is likely there are more pups since wolf litters usually number four to six.
Whatever the number, OR7 has definitely made history again.
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