No one would have the slightest idea of the wanderings of "Journey," AKA, OR-7, without the Federal Endangered Species ruling on the releases of wolves in Wyoming in 1995. To accomplish that, a lot of changes in attitude took place in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and ranchers of the West.
To start with, the Gray Wolf is a BIG canid, (and our first "true dog"). In size, they're anywhere from a little over two to three feet at the shoulder, and tip the scales from 100 to 130 pounds—depending on sex, with the males bigger than females. They are known as one of the best natural tools to manage elk and deer populations that have begun to destroy their habitat.
That killing ability of elk and livestock, and the wolf's family life—known to those who did not like them—led to their demise in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the hand of livestock raisers, especially the wool-growing community.
Once the wolf-killers discovered they were easy to kill, the canines were all but exterminated from the lower 48. And, despite the fact they were mercilessly killed by shooters from airplanes, poisoned, trapped and shot by ranchers and fur-trappers all over the West — or maybe because of it—Alaska and Canada became the last refuge for the The Big Bad Wolf.
(That also started one of most spectacular errors in predator "control." The federal trappers and killers got it into their heads that if the wolf was that easy to eliminate, the coyote would be a cinch. Ha! Thanks to the over 100 years of indiscriminate trapping, shooting, and poisoning, the coyote is now in greater numbers, healthier than ever, and can be found—literally—everywhere in the lower 48, even downtown Chicago and Los Angeles.)
In regard to the wolf, Mother Nature, being resilient and working within a set of rules that Man sometimes doesn't, or can't, understand, offered wolves some hidden lands in Canada and western Montana—and probably a few other places—where they shared space and prey with another rare and scarce predator, the wolverine.
It was from the reservoirs in Canada and Western Montana that 41 wolves were captured and released in Yellowstone Park—to keep the elk from eating themselves out of house-and-home. And, in 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf (Gray Wolf, Canis lupus) as an endangered species and designated Greater Yellowstone as one of the recovery areas.
The sport-hunting community could hardly wait for the wolves to do what humans are really good at—reproducing their kind. Sure enough, in a short time there were 400 to 450 hungry wolves with Idaho elk herds (and cows) on their mind, along with about twice that many worried cattlemen and wool-growers. Idaho Fish and Game manages wolves as a big game species and has a general hunting season with tags available over-the-counter.
With the growing population of wolves and a bunch of angry ranchers ranting and raving about wolf-kills on livestock, the USFWS decided it was time to scrap the endangered status of the wolves and hope the western states would take over management.
Oregon jumped in with both feet, both hands and an ample budget to hire researchers and their tools prior to the first wolves crossing over from Idaho into Wallowa County, and they remained listed as endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.
While wolves wandering around west of Oregon Highways 395/78 and 95 are federally protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, with federal and state protection, wolves enjoyed a wide distribution, and soon numbered to 64 individuals in eight packs. There is no hunting season on wolves in Oregon.
In February 2011, wildlife biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife attached radio collars to several wolves in the Imnaha pack (Oregon's first wolf pack since wolves were reintroduced). One of them—a year-old male—is now our famous OR-7.
His wanderings are well documented, but suffice it to say, Crater Lake was pulling on his reins, thus making it pretty clear he preferred Oregon over California—a situation that's the subject of a great deal of ho-ha-in' when Oregonians and Californians get together.
Now everyone in on OR-7's behavior is convinced he's found a sweetie Oregon lady wolf to howl at, and admirers are expecting them to give us three or four pups to oohh-and-ahhh about—and cause a few more gray hairs on the stockmen's heads in the Ashland Country.
Around the Bend area, there have been several spottings of other wolves as well; none closer than 50 miles, where two wolves were spotted in 2012 a bit further south of Sunriver, dashing across Hwy 97.