April 2, 2021
The latest California celebrity to garner public attention doesn't have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, nor does he care.
This young male is cruising the state right now, likely looking for love in all the wrong places as he is tracked daily by wildlife officials and chronicled in social media.
OR-93 is a gray wolf that started life in Oregon just a couple years ago. He was collared there as a pup by wildlife officials. That collar tracks him, but not in real time.
By the end of March the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that he'd made it to the heavily agricultural regions of Fresno County after crossing the California border earlier this year. Since then he reportedly crossed into San Benito County, which sits astride the coastal range and San Andreas Fault. It's highly likely that he has walked over 1,000 miles since crossing into California.
Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive officer of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said there was at least one possible sighting of him on a farm near Huron, Calif. Agricultural officials in Fresno County were apparently notified by state wildlife officials after he crossed into the heart of Central Valley agriculture.
"This has been truly an amazing journey to watch," Jacobsen said.
If OR-93's journey is one of biology – he's simply looking for a mate – cruising parts of the state that haven't seen wolves in about 100 years will not work for the wayward canid who can't just go to an internet dating site for a little self-promotion. Worrisome to some is he could find a suitable attraction to any canine in heat, meaning someone's pet dog could be put in peril by such an encounter. Perhaps worse would the human reaction be to such a hasty confrontation.
The gray wolf is protected under the California Endangered Species Act. Even harassing a gray wolf to encourage it to move on is a crime.
Along this amazing journey he has apparently avoided human contact and found food along the way. This is a tremendous example of nature adapting to its surroundings.
Fascinating as this is to watch, has anyone asked why he's being allowed by wildlife officials to travel freely in an area with no other wolves? If species preservation is paramount, would it be better to relocate him to an area where he is likely to find a mate? The CDFW website has photos of a female gray wolf after being fitted with a collar in Lassen County. Would it be inappropriate to play matchmaker and introduce the two?
Or are wildlife officials correct to "let nature take its course" and allow him to succeed or fail in his journey? While much of this has been through rural regions of the state, his ability to cross undetected through or around the large population center of Fresno and Clovis and across several major highways is remarkable. How much longer can he avoid human contact as he appears close to the highly populated California coast?
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