An Oregon-born gray wolf, who delighted biologists on its journey far south to California, was found dead after apparently being hit by a vehicle, authorities said Wednesday.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a press release that no foul play was suspected in the death of the male wolf named OR93. Gray wolves are considered endangered in California, where they were eradicated in the 1920s.
“Before his death, it was documented that he had traveled the far south of California since the wolves returned to the state, which is historically a wolf habitat. The last documented wolf in the far south was caught in San Bernardino County in 1922, ”the department said.
A truck driver reported spotting the dead wolf on November 10 near the town of Lebec in Kern County, about 120 kilometers northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The carcass was along a dirt track near a front road parallel to Interstate 5, and a guard who responded quickly identified the wolf as OR93 based on a radio tracking collar he was wearing, the division said.
An autopsy performed at the Wildlife Health Laboratory at Rancho Cordova found the wolf had significant tissue trauma to its left hind leg, a dislocated knee, and soft tissue trauma to its abdomen.
OR93 was born in 2019 to the White River Pack in northern Oregon. He went to Modoc County, California on January 30, 2021, returned briefly to Oregon, then reentered California on February 4, heading south.
His last collar transfer was on April 5 from the San Luis Obispo district on the central coast. By then, he had covered at least 1,505 kilometers in California, said the Wildlife Department.
OR93 was among a small number of gray wolves that began to come to California from other states.
“I am devastated to learn of the death of this remarkable wolf whose epic journeys through California inspired the world,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.
“In this annual time of reflection, I thank him for the hope that he has given us and for a brief glimpse of what it would be like for wolves to run around wild and free again,” said Weiss.
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