A gray wolf that made history via its epic journey to southern California has met a sad but all too predictable end. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the body of OR93, a male wolf born in northern Oregon in 2019, was found earlier this month by a truck driver near Interstate 5 in Kern County, around an hour's drive north of Los Angeles, KTLA reports. Authorities say an investigation and necropsy "determined that the wolf died from trauma consistent with vehicular strike"; foul play is not suspected.
OR93 is believed to have traveled further south in California than any member of his species since 1922, when one was spotted in San Bernardino County. According to CFDW, the wolf, apparently looking for a mate, entered California in late January this year and traveled through more than a dozen counties on his way south. The last transmission from his radio collar before it stopped working was from San Luis Obispo County on April 5. By then, he had traveled 935 miles through the state at an average rate of 16 miles per day. Officials say the wolf was spotted in Ventura County, even further south, in September.
Amaroq Weiss at the Center for Biological Diversity says she is "devastated to learn of the death of this remarkable wolf. "His epic travels across California inspired the world," Weiss said in a statement, per NBC. "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." NPR reports that a million animals per day die on America's roads, and habitat fragmentation is a major problem for populations of large carnivores like wolves and mountain lions, though the recently passed federal infrastructure bill will provide more funding for efforts to construct bridges and underpasses for wildlife. (A decade ago, California saw its first gray wolf since 1924.)