On this Father's Day, Oregon has a special new father to congratulate and welcome: OR-7, a lone wolf no longer, now a proud papa.
Millions of people around the world have followed OR-7's saga, as chronicled by his satellite radio collar: how he left his pack in northeast Oregon as a restless 2-year old; how he crossed the high desert to become the first wolf in the Cascades in over 50 years; how he pushed south into California to search for a mate in a state where no wolf had been seen since 1924; how he finally settled down near Crater Lake, apparently resigned to a life of bachelorhood.
It was an epic story, but, really, what were the chances it would have a happy ending?
Then came the incredible news that a female wolf had somehow found her way across untold hundreds of miles to meet OR-7 in his wilderness solitude. She has no radio collar and so we will never know her story, but certainly it was one to match her mate's. And now, biologists have confirmed that the pair has produced a litter of pups, the first in this region in over 70 years.
The amazing story gives us hope. Hope on a human level that love can triumph over the longest of odds. And hope that wild nature too can find a way, can survive and restore itself if we only give it a chance.
Wolves belong here. They did not simply disappear from Oregon; they were eliminated in a misguided campaign of predator control at a time when the vital ecological role of wolves was not understood.
To become a parent is to take one's place in an unbroken strand of life stretching backward into the depths of time, and — we hope — into a limitless future. Somewhere in the Southern Oregon wilderness, young wolf pups are rolling around in the sunshine, biting each other's ears and waiting for their father and mother to return. Their existence is little short of miraculous, a tribute to the tenacity of Oregon's famous wandering wolf and his extraordinary mate. OR-7: Happy Father's Day!
Pepper Trail is a naturalist and writer. He lives in Ashland.