World’s Most Famous Wolf Has a Second Set of Pups

New camera trap photos show OR7’s one-year-old pups playing and evidence that a litter was born this winter.
Jul 8, 2015·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Like a TMZ camera guy staking out the right Los Angeles International Airport terminal to capture a Jennifer Lopez confetti bombing, wildlife camera traps set up in the correct neck of the woods can capture fantastic footage.

Wildlife officials in Oregon put their trail cameras in the right spot this summer, capturing images of the now one-year-old pups of the famous gray wolf called OR7. But the pictures of adolescent wolves playing in their natural habitat is just a bonus compared with what the biologists discovered when they retrieved the cameras—pup scat.

They believe the wolf most likely sired a second set of pups this summer, meaning the Rogue Pack leader is faring well.

OR7, also known as Journey, is the wolf that made international headlines when it traversed from Oregon into California over the course of a three-year, 3,000-mile trek, becoming the first wolf in more than 87 years to enter the Golden State. Prompted by Journey’s journey, the California Fish and Game Commission last year put the gray wolf on the state’s endangered species list.

Since then, Journey has returned to Oregon, found a mate, and sired two litters of pups—all indications that the area is prime real estate for wolves.

“Having a second litter is this pack’s way of putting down roots, and the fact that there are now developing complex layers within this pack is an excellent sign biologically,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “OR7 traveled thousands of miles to find a mate and start a family. But this important recovery can only continue if we keep protecting wolves in Oregon and across the United States.”

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In January, Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife took away some protections for wolves living in the eastern part of the state because after four breeding pairs of wolves were recorded over three consecutive years, that region’s wolf population met the Phase II threshold of the department’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Now, ranchers have more leeway to shoot and kill wolves threatening livestock and sheep on their farms.

So, Why Should You Care? Oregon’s wolf population climbed to 77 individuals in 2014, including 26 pups that survived through the end of the year. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, one study found that there’s enough food and space to support more than 1,400 wolves in the state with minimal human conflict. With this year’s count of seven breeding pairs, wildlife officials are mulling removing endangered species protections from the state’s entire wolf population.

“Wolves have started recovering in Oregon only because they’re legally protected, but critical state protections are now in peril,” Weiss said. “Removing state safeguards for wolves would be a tremendous setback for further recovery.”