On December 28, 2011, a GPS collared wolf called OR-7 crossed into California from Oregon and became famous as the first known, wild wolf in California in nearly 90 years. In 2014, a crew of 6 humans retraced Wolf OR-7’s dispersal route on bicycle and foot, and interviewed people along the way who now find themselves in wolf country. The 83-minute documentary, Wolf OR-7 Expedition, is now available for free on YouTube.
The film explores perspectives on wolf and human coexistence six years after the first resident wolf pack in Oregon was spotted in 2008, which included Wolf OR-7’s mother. In a spirit of “go see for yourself,” the documentary trails the team through challenges of navigating the landscape and engaging various stakeholders that defy stereotypes. Rachael Pecore-Valdez, Oregonian and Wolf OR-7 Expedition Founder, says “we met biologists who hunt deer and elk, ranchers who protect wildlife, environmentalists who grew up on cattle ranches… When you talk with someone for more than two hours you find it’s not as simple as “pro” or “anti-wolf.”
Five years after crossing into California, Wolf OR-7 is still out there, living in the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest with a mate and 3 litters of pups to date, collectively called the Rogue Pack. Recently implicated in a livestock kill, U.S. Fish & Wildlife is trying to re-collar OR-7 or his mate as OR-7’s collar batteries died in 2014. Some of Wolf OR-7’s brothers from the Imnaha Pack have settled nearby, and there are currently two wolf packs across the border in California. Wolf OR-7, also called Journey, will be 8 years old this spring (all wolves are born in spring as females only go into estrus once a year, in mid-winter).
According to the Oregon Wolf Management Plan, “human tolerance has been and remains the primary limiting factor for wolf survival.” Oregon’s Wolf Management Plan was revisited last year, and California recently released the state’s first Wolf Management Plan outlining how human-wolf conflicts will be addressed.
The Wolf OR-7 Expedition gave Pecore-Valdez a lot of hope, “Human-wolf coexistence depends primarily on human-human coexistence. It only takes one skilled poacher to kill a wolf. It takes a lot of people willing to listen across partisan lines, compromise and duke out the details in court to get to the number of wolves we have in the Northwest today.”
The film was accepted at the International Wildlife Film Festival and Corvallis EcoFestival. Visit or7expedition.org for public film screening updates, including January 18th, 6:30pm at Base Camp Brewing, Portland OR.
The Wolf OR-7 Expedition was sponsored by Kickstarter supporters, Sculpt the Future Foundation and Xplore. Wolf OR-7 Expedition is a collaboration of the Wild Peace Alliance.