Earlier this month, Karen Kovacs, California Department of Fish and Game’s wildlife program manager, and a team of biologists, a federal trapper, and game wardens, set out to talk to ranchers in Modoc County about the presence of a wolf in the area. The wolf was fitted with a GPS tracking collar last year in Wallowa County, OR. Since then, he broke from his pack and wandered into the state of California, where there hadn’t been a reported wolf spotting in almost a decade. While Kovacs’ team were talking to the ranchers, one of them casually scanned a nearby hillside with binoculars and spotted the famous wolf.
“He was about 100 yards away and looking toward them. He may have heard their voices and came out to investigate,” said Kovacs. “Then he moved off and was subsequently joined by coyotes.” The GPS tracking collar once again lead the biologists to interesting and unusual wildlife behavior. “They were in very close proximity to OR7,” she explained. “I think it was kind of a mutual thing. Maybe there had been some prior contact. They did go off in the same direction together, but shortly after that OR7 went off by himself and then disappeared out of view.”
Wolf packs in Yellowstone National Park have been known to attack and kill any coyotes that wander into their territory. “These animals in general don’t like each other. They are competitors, but a lone wolf who is not defending any territory doesn’t have the same aggression,” Kovacs said. “Given that wolves are social creatures, maybe he is a little lonely. He’s been alone since September of last year.”
Evidence of coyotes and wolves mating has been found, but it’s considered very rare. The GPS tracking collar attached to OR7 provides Kovacs a unique opportunity to witness these typically rivaling species interacting peacefully. “Clearly mating is a possibility,” Kovacs explained. “These creatures are successful as a social unit. As an individual their odds of passing on their genes to a future generation are significantly reduced.”