EUGENE, Ore. - Biologists confirmed that Oregon's wandering wolf is a proud papa.
OR-7 and his mate have produced offspring in southwestern Oregon, the first pups confirmed born in the Oregon Cascades since the 1940s.
"This is very exciting news," said Paul Henson, state supervisor of the Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office. "It continues to illustrate that gray wolves are being recovered."
Rep. Peter DeFazio cheered the discovery but vowed to oppose removing the wolf form the Endangered Species List.
"This is great news, but the critical federal protections that have allowed OR-7 to start his new pack are in jeopardy," DeFazio, D-Oregon, said. "As we celebrate OR-7 and his new family, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is threatening to disregard science and take the gray wolf off the Endangered Species list. If the Service delists the gray wolf, states could declare open season on gray wolves like OR-7, his mate, and these new pups. For over a year, I have fought to keep these critical federal protections for gray wolves and will continue to do so until Fish and Wildlife Service makes their final decision later this year."
Biologists theorized last month that OR-7 had found a mate after spotting a female in the same vicinity.
GPS data from a collar on OR-7 also showed that the wandering wolf, which had walked from Northeastern Oregon to California and back into Southern Oregon over the last few years, had stuck around the same area of the southern Oregon Cascades, suggesting a possible den and offspring.
OR-7's territory includes eastern Douglas County south to the California border.
On June 2, biologists observed and photographed 2 pups. They suspect there could be as many as 4 or 6 pups, based on typical wolf litters.
Wolves in Oregon are protected by the state Endangered Species Act. Wolves west of Oregon Highways 395, 78 and 95 are also protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.
At the end of 2013, there were 64 known wolves in Oregon.
Most known wolves are in the northeast corner of the state.
OR-7 was born in April 2009 in northeastern Oregon in the area around the Imnaha River.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife collared him with a GPS tracker in February 2011, allowing biologists to observe his movements.
He left the pack in September 2011 and walked across Oregon and into California on Dec. 28, 2011, the first known wolf in that state since 1924.
Since March 2013, OR-7 has spent the majority of its time in the southwest Cascades in the Cascades south of Crater Lake.