Gray wolf that traveled from Oregon to California found dead in Kern County. ‘I’m devastated’

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A gray wolf that traveled thousands of miles from Oregon through California, venturing as far south as Ventura County, was found dead in Kern County in early November, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

OR-93, a male gray wolf, was likely hit by a vehicle on a frontage road parallel to Interstate 5 near Lebec in southeastern Kern County, according to the department.

“On the afternoon of Nov. 10, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received a phone call from a truck driver who witnessed the deceased wolf along a dirt trail near a frontage road running parallel to I-5,” the California of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release. “A CDFW warden responded to the scene to collect the carcass, which was quickly identified as OR93 because of its collar.”

The wolf’s death saddens many who were fascinated by his historic journey south in search of a mate or new pack.

“I’m devastated to learn of the death of this remarkable wolf, whose epic travels across California inspired the world,” Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote in an email. “In this annual time of reflection, I thank him for the hope he gave us and for a brief glimpse into what it would be like for wolves to roam wild and free again.

“I only wish we’d been able to provide him with a safer world. California has to do so much more to preserve wildlife connectivity and protect animals like OR-93 from car strikes.”

OR-93 had been the first known wolf to travel into San Luis Obispo County in nearly 200 years.

The wolf was captured and fitted with a GPS collar by biologists in Oregon in June 2020 near the Mount Hood region, where he was born in 2019.

Once OR-93 crossed state lines into Modoc County in early February — wolves often travel long distances to find a mate or new pack to settle down with — California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists closely tracked his journey.

OR-93 trekked through Mono County and into parts of Tuolumne, Mariposa, Merced and Madera counties before turning up in Fresno County in late February.

On March 27, he crossed into San Benito County, then into Monterey County on April 1 and San Luis Obispo County on April 6.

Shortly after the wolf made national headlines for venturing to the Central Coast, OR-93’s collar stopped sending regular GPS signals to Fish and Wildlife.

At the time, department spokesperson Jordan Traverso worried the wolf had died, although she remained optimistic, hoping that his GPS collar had simply malfunctioned.

In October, OR-93 was suspected to be spotted in Ventura and Kern counties.

“Before his demise, he was documented traveling the farthest south in California since wolves returned to the state, which is historically wolf habitat,” Fish and Wildlife said in the release. “The last documented wolf that far south was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922.”

Gray wolves, which used to be abundant in California, are listed as endangered under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

There are at least 15 other gray wolves that have traveled into California from Oregon since 2011. Most of those have settled down in remote, northeastern California.

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