Many miles were traveled in the short life of one gray wolf, who became famous as he traversed the state of California. OR-93 was born in Oregon in 2019, and by Jan. 30, 2021 had traveled south into Modoc County, California, his tracking collar showed.
After a short stint back north over the state line, OR-93 began a journey south that is unprecedented in recent history. On Feb. 24, he entered Alpine County after passing through portions of Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras counties. On Feb. 25, he entered Mono County. In mid-March, he was in western Tuolumne County. By late March he was in Fresno County, and then entered San Benito County after crossing Highway 99 and Interstate 5.
He was in Monterey County on April 1 and his last collar transmission was from San Luis Obispo County on April 5.
Through April 5 OR-93 traveled at least 935 miles in California, a minimum average of 16 miles per day, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which uses GPS collars to track these endangered animals.
The wolf's long journey ended with a suspected vehicle collision near the city of Lebec in Kern County, near a stretch of I-5 known as "The Grapevine." He was found dead on Nov. 10.
Following a full investigation and necropsy, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has determined that the wolf died from trauma consistent with vehicular strike and does not suspect foul play.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received a phone call from a truck driver who saw the deceased wolf along a dirt trail near a frontage road running parallel to I-5. A CDFW warden responded to the scene, and identified the wolf as OR-93 thanks to his collar.
A necropsy was performed at the Wildlife Health Laboratory in Rancho Cordova, where scientists identified significant tissue trauma they believe to be the result of a collision and the cause of the wolf's death.
It's been a century since the last time a wolf was documented that far south in California. (A wolf was captured in in San Bernardino County in 1922.)
It's also been a century since wolves were removed from California entirely, but while the state's wolf population remains small it is growing today. The population began to reestablish itself as wolves moved from Oregon into Northern California starting in late 2011.
Since then, there have been three breeding packs documented in California: The Lassen Pack, which has produced litters every year since 2017; the Shasta Pack was last detected in 2017; and the Whaleback Pack produced its first litter in spring 2021.
Fish and Wildlife officials also note that wolves only rarely pose a threat to humans, and mostly fear humans and avoid them. If you have a close encounter with a wolf, do not run and maintain eye contact; make noise while retreating slowly. Wolves occasionally predate livestock. It is illegal to shoot or attempt to kill or injure a wolf.