History-making gray wolf found dead near 5 Freeway in Lebec area

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The gray wolf known as OR-93 is seen in a photo distributed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The gray wolf known as OR-93 is seen in a photo distributed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A gray wolf from Oregon who ventured the farthest south in California than any member of the species in nearly 100 years has died, apparently after being hit by a vehicle in Kern County, officials confirmed Wednesday.

OR-93’s carcass was discovered along a dirt trail near the 5 Freeway in the Lebec area on Nov. 10 by a truck driver, according to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife news release.

The motorist reported the discovery to Oregon wildlife officials, who alerted the California agency. A warden responded and immediately identified the wolf as OR93 because of his collar.

The young wolf was found to have “trauma consistent with vehicular strike,” and foul play was ruled out, according to the necropsy.

CDFW had been tracking the wolf’s historic trek through the Golden State, which started at the beginning of this year.

“Before his demise, he was documented traveling the farthest south in California since wolves returned to the state, which is historically wolf habitat,” the release stated. “The last documented wolf that far south was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922.”

Born in 2019 in northern Oregon, the gray wolf was first tracked entering California through Modoc County in January. He briefly went back to Oregon before crossing once more into the Golden State on Feb. 4.

His journey through California took him through parts of Alpine, Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras Mono, Tuolomne, Fresno, San Benito and Monterey counties.

OR93’s last collar transmission was on April 5 in San Luis Obispo County, by which point he had traveled at least 935 miles through the state, averaging some 16 miles per day, according to Fish and Wildlife officials.

Though his collar stopped transmitting, CDFW believes that OR93 was the gray wolf spotted in Kern County in mid-May and in Ventura County in late September.

Gray wolves are native to California, but the state’s population was wiped out in the 1920s, and it was only a decade ago that they began returning.

The species is listed as endangered in California, making it illegal to kill, shoot, hunt, hurt, trap, harass or capture them, according to CDFW.

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