Lone Wolf

at 12:35 AM

That world famous lonesome young wolf -- the first one in California in almost nine decades -- is still searching for love after leaving home in northeastern Oregon. His GPS collar tells us he's wandered more than 2,000 miles, crisscrossing the Oregon-California border several times, in his forlorn search for a mate.

Wildlife biologists say OR7's odds of finding one aren't great, unless he returns to northeastern Oregon and meets a female who's also left her pack. His odds of surviving long on his own aren't much better. So far, the wolf has found food, water and shelter. But most wolves who leave their families to start new packs are killed by humans. They get hit by cars and electrocuted by fences. They get shot, poisoned and trapped -- sometimes legally, sometimes not.

OR7 can take heart knowing two collared wolves lived five years before coming across mates. But they stayed close to home. Long-distance travelers like OR7 have't been known to live long enough to find companions.

Some people wonder whether OR7 picked the wrong direction by traveling south. As California's only confirmed wolf, his chances of scoring a California girl are pretty slim. He's got a classic case of looking for love in all the wrong places.

On the other hand, OR7 has the law on his side here where it's illegal to kill wild wolves. His brother, OR9, made the mistake of heading east and crossing an imaginary line into Idaho, where a large, healthy wolf population has preyed on domestic animals and hunting the predators is legal. OR9 was shot and killed by a hunter in February.

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For now, OR7 is still alive, trying to fulfill his genetic destiny. The young wolf is wandering alone through a legal and geographic landscape he doesn't really know at all -- one with imaginary lines and rules made by human beings. Boundaries that can have huge consequences for a wolf.

Perhaps what OR7 needs most right now isn't a mate. It's a map and a lawyer.

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With a Perspective, I'm Suzanne Hurt.

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