We got melancholy news the other day about the gray wolf known as OR-54, for Oregon, where she was trapped and fitted with a GPS collar in 2017. From the day it was activated until the beginning of this month, she left her pack in search of what wolves and people often seek – new territory, a mate, another pack or family; traveling more than 8,000 miles, averaging 13 a day. Two years ago, a motorist spotted her in Chester, California and posted a video to YouTube: A tawny creature that could be mistaken for a German shepherd at a distance, as a woman says, “The wolf is here!” – and OR-54 running away.
In the last three months of 2019, she journeyed more than 1,000 miles through six California counties, searching. She also made two trips back to Oregon and a short foray into Nevada. In another age and on two legs, she would have been known as a great explorer, like John C. Frémont, The Pathfinder, but more able. She was a great American.
In December, her collar went silent. At the beginning of February, biologists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were alerted that she had stopped moving in Shasta County, about 200 miles north of Sacramento and south of Mount Shasta, which marked the southern end of the Cascade Range she would have followed out of Oregon and which could have been her polestar. On Feb. 5, they found her body.
It is not yet known how she died or whether her death is being investigated as a crime. Under federal law it is forbidden to shoot, injure or kill gray wolves. There are now an estimated 15-20 of them running wild in California – so her carcass goes to dust and her story goes on.