BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An endangered gray wolf from Oregon found dead near Interstate 5 in the Lebec area is believed to have been hit by a vehicle, officials said Wednesday.
Foul play is not suspected in the death of the 2-year-old wolf named OR-93 whose body was found Nov. 10 along a dirt trail near a frontage road running parallel to the highway, according to a news release from Fish and Wildlife.
Injuries to the male wolf — known as OR-93 — were consistent with getting hit by a vehicle, the release says. The animal was fitted with a GPS tracking collar.
“Before his demise, he was documented traveling the farthest south in California since wolves returned to the state, which is historically wolf habitat,” according to the release. “The last documented wolf that far south was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922.”
According to GPS coordinates, the wolf left the White River pack in northern Oregon, entered Modoc County in January, briefly returned to Oregon, re-entered Oregon in February then traveled through portions of multiple counties in California.
Officials say OR-93 was making the trip to California in search for a mate.
By late March he was in Fresno County, the release says, then entered San Benito County after crossing Highway 99 and I-5. He was in Monterey County on April 1, and his last collar transmission came April 5 from San Luis Obispo County.
Gray wolves are listed as endangered and pose little threat to humans, officials said.
“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.”
Anyone who believes they have seen a gray wolf in California can report it here.