Beloved California Wolf Vanishes From Radar, Sparking Fears of Its Death

A young gray wolf known as OR-93 that crossed from Oregon into California has not been documented since early April, sparking fears that he may be dead, wildlife officials said.

The wolf's movements are tracked through a radio collar that "pings" his location, wildlife officials added. The radio collar stopped emitting pings in San Luis Obispo County, roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported.

According to wildlife officials, they have not picked up a "mortality signal" from the wolf's collar, which indicates when a wolf has not moved for at least eight hours, the Los Angeles Times reported.

All hope is not lost, as California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said there is the possibility the collar is broken or malfunctioning due to dead batteries.

State biologists from California and Oregon said they plan to fly over the wolf's path in an attempt to pick up his signal again.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

gray wolf
Mexican gray wolf at Living Desert State Park. Canis lupus. Mexican gray wolves were once found on most of the prairie lands of the West. Today they are highly endangered and are the object of a captive breeding program to return them to the wild. Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images

He may be dead or running wild with a Central Coast pack that no one knew existed, Traverso said.

"We're trying to keep hope alive," she told the news publication.

Biologists in Oregon fitted OR-93 with a GPS tracking collar in June, near the Portland area where he was born. He left the pack and crossed into California, padding south to an agricultural area near Fresno before heading west to the Central Coast. That the gray wolf made it so far was remarkable given that he had to cross three busy highways, wildlife experts said.

Millions of wolves thrived throughout North America until the 19th and 20th centuries, when they were eradicated by government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list after determining the overall population was stable.

There are an estimated 6,000 wolves living in the lower 48 states of the U.S. Fewer than a dozen wolves live in Northern California.

Recent claims of OR-93 sightings, including blurry, far-off photos of grayish dog-like creatures and of "wolfish" looking paw prints in wet sand give hope that he has survived. Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, certainly hopes so.

"The ultimate Hollywood ending of this mystery," she added, "would be for OR-93 to settle down with a surfer girl canine in Malibu and raise a pack of cute pups."

cute gray wolf
FILE - In this Feb. 2021, file photo, released by California Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf (OR-93), seen near Yosemite National Park, Calif. The young, tagged gray wolf that crossed into California from Oregon has not been heard from since early April, spurring speculation that he may be dead. Wildlife officials who track OR-93 through his radio collar said he stopped emitting "pings" April 5 in San Luis Obispo County, which is roughly mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. California Department of Fish and Wildlife/via AP