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Gray wolf traveling from Oregon through California hit and killed by car in Kern County

KMPH – Fresno-Visalia logo KMPH – Fresno-Visalia 11/24/2021 Stephen Hawkins
© Provided by KMPH – Fresno-Visalia

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the gray wolf known as OR-93 has died.

The radio-collared male wolf from Oregon, who first entered California on Jan. 30, died when it was apparently hit by a vehicle on Interstate 5 in Kern County.

The young wolf made national headlines when it traveled from Oregon into the southern Sierras and then west to San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

OR-93 was the first reported wolf on the Central Coast in 200 to 300 years.

“I’m devastated to learn of the death of this remarkable wolf,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “His epic travels across California inspired the world. 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.”

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, OR-93’s death was reported by a truck driver on Nov. 10 to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The report came after the wolf’s body was seen along a dirt trail on a frontage road on Interstate 5.

Examination at the state wildlife forensics lab confirmed that OR-93 died of injuries consistent with a vehicle strike.

OR-93 was just over a year old when he was fitted with a radio collar in June 2020, near where he was born, south of Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Researchers say he left his pack and headed south, arriving in Modoc County, in late January, and continued swiftly moving through more than a dozen counties by late March.

He then turned west and continued to San Luis Obispo County, where his last radio-collar signal was detected in early April.

In late August a Kern County landowner checked his trail camera and discovered a video of the wolf taken near a water trough on his property in mid-May.

In late September, three visual sightings were made of OR-93 in northern Ventura County.

“OR-93’s epic California journey was a beacon of hope in a time when other states are waging a brutal war on wolves, killing them by the hundreds,” Weiss said. “He was simply doing what wolves do, heading out on his own, searching for a mate. I always knew the odds of his finding another wolf on the Central Coast were slim to none, but his relentless wanderings seeking a kindred spirit connected him to the hearts of so many. He won’t be forgotten, and we’ll honor his memory by continuing to fight for the safety of wolves everywhere.”

Gray wolves are protected as an endangered species in California under state law. Federal protections for wolves were recently ended by the federal government, but lawsuits have been filed by the Center and allies challenging this premature and unscientific delisting.

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