Don't stop believing...The Journey of OR7
Tracking the journey of the first confirmed wolf in western Oregon in nearly 65 years.
The wolf formerly known as OR-7
In the Fall of 2011, OR7 - a wolf from the Imnaha Pack in Northeast Oregon - made history. After an epic journey across the state, the 2-year old male became the first wolf confirmed west of the Cascades since the last bounty was collected in 1947.
In a moment of rare historic symmetry, OR7 - born to the first pack of wolves to return to Oregon since that tragic day - may have passed by the very spot in the Umpqua National Forest where Oregon's last wolf was killed.
After spending time in the Soda Mt. Wilderness, Klamath Basin and Sky Lakes Wilderness south of Crater Lake, he continued his journey South and became the first wolf confirmed in California in nearly a century! Part of what made his trek across the state possible were the Wilderness and roadless areas he traveled through. Learn more about roadless areas below.
In an attempt to draw attention to the great conservation success story that is wolf recovery, Oregon Wild sponsored a kids art and naming contest. On January 4, 2012 OR-7 got a new name - Journey.
On the very same day, the first "real" photo of Journey - taken by a hunters trail camera - surfaced in the Medford Mail Tribune. A few months later, the first color photo of Journey was released by the California Department of Fish & Game (above).
ODFW is no longer releasing new information on Journey. However, the California Department of Fish & Game regularly updates his (generalized) location.
- You can get the latest updates on Journey's travels here.
- Read a blog post about what Journey's been up to lately.
- You can also find more links specifically about Journey below.
Read on for maps, photos, and news of interest to those tracking the progress of Journey & Oregon's fragile wolf recovery including descriptions of some of the landscapes Journey explored on his epic Journey.
The struggle of Journey's ancestors
Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were once common in Oregon, occupying most of the state. However, a deliberate effort to eradicate the species was successful by the late 1940s.
Trouble for wolves began before Oregon even became a state. In 1843 the first wolf bounty was established and Oregon's first legislative session was called in part to address the "problem of marauding wolves". By 1913, people could collect a $5 state bounty and an Oregon State Game Commission bounty of $20. The last recorded wolf bounty was paid out in 1947.
In 1995, sixty-six wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho. A few years later - after an absence of over half a century, wolves began to take their first tentative steps towards recovery.
Having dispersed from Idaho, the native species is once again trying to make a home in Oregon. One of the first sightings came in 1999 when a lone wolf was captured near the middle fork of the John Day River, put in a crate and quickly returned to Idaho. In 2000, two wolves were found dead - one killed by a car, the other illegally shot.
In 2006, a flurry of sightings led state wildlife biologists to believe that a number of wild wolves were living in Northeast Oregon near the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. In May of 2007 a wolf was found shot to death near La Grande, OR.
After that sad chapter, wolves began to establish a fragile foothold in the state. In July, 2008 pups were confirmed to a wolf named Sophie by the Oregon Wild wolf pack (and B-300 to government biologists). Those pups represented the first in Oregon nearly 60 years! A second set of six pups were confirmed and videotaped in November, 2009. The following July, a third litter of pups was confirmed.
The most recent photo of the Imnaha Pack from ODFW. This pack was the second to successfully raise pups in Oregon since wolves began to return in the late 1990's. From left to right are Sophie (the alpha female and mother of Journey), a yearling, the alpha male (and father of Journey), and a young pup. .
Unfortunately, the news was tempered with additional poaching and heavy-handed state management. After peaking at 26 confirmed wolves, wolf recovery stalled out in 2011.
While some wolves dispersed from the Imnaha Pack, only one pup was confirmed to Oregon's first pack, and two pups were confirmed in one of the states other two packs (the Walla-Walla & Wenaha). Oregons' confirmed wolf population fell to 17 and then to 14 when the state killed three more wolves (two on purpose) and poachers killed a fourth.
At the end of 2011, Oregon's confirmed wolf population held its ground and stood at 29 (30 when Journey was in the state).
Anticipating the eventual return of wolves, the State of Oregon created a wolf conservation and management plan in 2005 aimed at making rational decisions in the light of day that would lead to wolf recovery that worked for everyone.
Though state polling put support for wolf recovery at over 70%, the plan was weak, allowed the state to kill wolves at the request of the livestock industry and others, and set scientifically indefensible recovery goals.
In 2010, the plan was reviewed and revised. The public process took the better part of a year and demonstrated that support for wolf recovery had grown. Over 90% of a staggering 20,000 public comments were in favor of stronger protections for Oregon's endangered gray wolves.
Oregon Wild joined other conservationists and the Oregon public in defending the plan against continued attacks. Though the plan survived relatively intact, most of the approved changes made it easier to kill wolves.
Still, wolves are threatened by a purposeful campaign of misinformation and fear. This webpage shoots down many of the common myths about wolves. A small number of vocal anti-wolf activists along with industry lobbyists and their political allies continue to work to undermine already weak protections for wolves and other wildlife.
Though not representative of a state that values native wildlife, political pressure has mounted and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife began to violate the spirit of the wolf plan by quickly turning to lethal control. In 2011, conservationists claimed - and a judge agreed - the agency was also violating the law. Over the objections of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and ODFW leadership, the state is currently not allowed to purposely kill endangered wolves.
For a state that prides itself on its green reputation, the extermination of wolves is one of our greatest environmental tragedies. Their return represents an opportunity at redemption.
The Soda Mountain area in southwestern Oregon is an ecological mosaic where the state's eastern desert meets towering fir forests. The biodiversity of its fir forests, sunlit oak groves, and meadows filled with wildflowers, and steep canyons are unmatched in the Cascade Range.
The Soda Mountain Wilderness is also a rare "cow free Wilderness" making it a particularly good place for a wolf to be.
The area is home to a spectacular variety of rare species of plants and animals whose survival in this region depends upon its continued ecological integrity. Roosevelt elk, cougars, black bears, golden and bald eagles, goshawks and falcons roam its lands and skies.
In 2009 President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (HR 146) into law, marking the final step for expanded Wilderness protections in Oregon and specifically for Soda Mountain. OR7’s visit to this wilderness area once again highlights the importance of protecting Oregon’s wildlands.
Learn more about Oregon Wild's efforts to protect the Soda Mt. Wilderness
On his way South, Journey passed through the Klamath Basin, an area south of Crater Lake with some of the important wildlife habitat on the West Coast. The Klamath Basin forms the narrow point of the hourglass that is the Pacific Flyway. The Oregon portion of the basin is home to many species of wildlife that rely on wildlife refuges in the area.
With six different national wildlife refuges in the area, it’s no wonder Journey decided to make the Klamath Basin one of his many temporary homes. This collection of refuges in southern Oregon and northern California is often referred to as the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex and totals nearly 200,000 acres.
The basin consists of a variety of habitats including freshwater marshes, open water, grassy meadows, coniferous forests, sagebrush and juniper grasslands, agricultural lands, and rocky cliffs and slopes. Over 430 different species have been observed on or near the refuges with a peak of over 1 million migratory birds in the fall.
Unfortunately the refuges are nearly always last in line for the regions scarce water pitting water hungry agribusiness against native fish wildlife.
Sky Lakes wilderness
Journey also spent some time in the Sky lakes wilderness area just south of Crater Lake National Park. Fieldwork conducted by ODFW determined that OR7 visited an elk carcass and livestock carcasses (bone pile) in this area.
The United States Congress designated the Sky Lakes Wilderness (map) in 1984 and it now totals 113,849 magnificent acres. All of this wilderness is located in Oregon and is managed by the Forest Service.
With a name like Sky Lakes, this Wilderness is obliged to deliver at least more than one impressive sapphire pool, and it does. In fact, it takes in three major lake (former glacial) basins as it stretches along the crest of the volcanic Cascade Mountains from the border of Crater Lake National Park on the north to State Highway 140 in the south: Seven Lakes, Sky Lakes, and Blue Canyon basins.
Sky Lakes serves as important elk (and other wildlife) habitat, and the famous Union Peak herd, which summers in the higher elevations of Crater Lake National Park, uses it. The herd is one of many in the area.
Crater Lake Wilderness
In November and December of 2011 Journey spent some time in Crater Lake National Park on his way to Oregon’s Sky Lakes Wilderness.
Crater Lake and its surrounding wildlands have inspired people for generations as it provides the postcard image that encapsulates Oregon’s beauty and commitment to conservation. Every year, Crater Lake attracts half a million visitors who come to gaze into its pure, clean water, marvel at its unique geology, and explore its rugged backcountry.
The natural beauty of Crater Lake extends far beyond Wizard Island and the caldera. It includes spectacular roadless lands both inside and outside of the official boundaries of the park.
Despite the beauty and importance of this national park it has not yet been protected as the wilderness it is and therefore remains at risk. Recent reckless timber sales and development proposals have put the critical wildlife habitat surrounding the park at risk.
In an age of climate change, this wildlife corridor has become even more important. If we wish to see more wildlife like Journey traveling through this area, it will need to remain wild for years to come. That requires permanent protection as Wilderness.
The Roadless Rule
Throughout his travels OR7 consistently utilized Oregon’s roadless areas. His path highlights the importance of maintaining and increasing the parts of Oregon that remain roadless.
The term “roadless” typically refers to areas on federal land without any major roads or development. Federal lands that contain roadless areas include National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Besides providing a key oasis for wildlife, roadless areas also filter drinking water, provide unique recreational opportunities, and draw visitors improving Oregon’s economy and quality of life.
In 2001, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was issued. The Roadless Rule protected 58.5 million acres of National Forest land (nearly 2 million acres in Oregon) from road-building and commercial development.
The Rule didn't reduce existing access in our National Forests that are already crisscrossed with more roads than the entire US Highway System. Even so, the rule was tossed aside by the Bush administration in 2005 and replaced with a weak, reckless rule.
After nearly a decade of legal wrangling by the Bush administration and its allies in the timber industry, wildlife everywhere could breathe a sigh of relief when the rule once again became the law of the land in October 2011.
Many roadless areas still remain unprotected and, as an administrative Rule, even the Roadless Rule remains at the whim of changing administrations.
For more information on Journey and Wolves in Oregon follow these links:
Selected news on Journey:
Oregon Wolf news including updates on OR7's progress
Connect With the Wild - the OR-7 naming & art contest for students
The Oregon Wild Wolf Pack - become a voice for wolves!
Resources for kids and educators from the International Wolf Center
The most recent map from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with Journey's range updated as of December 31st, 2011. The agency estimates the journey has now covered over 800 miles. Other Pack territories are estimated and shown in blue.
Journey's travels mapped by California Department of Fish & Game. Most recent location shown here is February 15, 2012. Click the map to be taken to CDFG's OR-7 webpage
On January 4, 2012, the winning art submission for the Connect with the Wild contest was announced. The drawing (right) came from an 8-year old Portland, Oregon girl named Enora. On the very same day, the first "real" photo of Journey surfaced (left).
A map created by Craig Miller at the Oregon Natural Desert Association showing the path of Journey through central Oregon's protected and unprotected landscapes.