A gray wolf whose “epic” travels captured headlines and imaginations earlier this year was killed in California after being struck by a vehicle this month, wildlife officials said Wednesday.
The wolf, known as OR93, was found dead on Interstate 5 roughly 90 miles north of Los Angeles, near the town of Lebec, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.
Foul play wasn’t suspected, the department said.
OR93 was born in northern Oregon in 2019. After being outfitted with a radio collar a year later, he was captured traveling to California’s Central Coast — the first wolf to be reported there in hundreds of years, said Amaroq Weiss, an advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“I’m devastated to learn of the death of this remarkable wolf,” Weiss said in a statement. “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.”
By April, OR93 had arrived in California’s San Luis Obispo County, nearly 1,000 miles south of his birthplace. Then, his radio collar stopped working, prompting the San Francisco Chronicle to contemplate the whereabouts of this “young roaming gray wolf” who was “probably looking for love” and eluding wildlife officials while doing so.
In his search for a mate, Weiss said, OR93 was captured on a trail camera even further south, in Kern County, where his body would later be found. In September, he was seen in northern Ventura County.
The last time a wolf was documented that far south was 1922, wildlife officials said, when one was seen in San Bernardino County.
“I always knew the odds of his finding another wolf on the Central Coast were slim to none, but his relentless wanderings seeking a kindred spirit connected him to the hearts of so many,” Weiss said. “He won’t be forgotten, and we’ll honor his memory by continuing to fight for the safety of wolves everywhere.”
Gray wolves are native to California but were killed off a century ago. Roughly 20 are now believed to live in the state in two northern counties, Weiss said.
Weiss pointed to OR93’s death as a reminder of the impact of development and sprawl on the habitat of native animals and called for the construction of effective wildlife crossings, including underpasses and overpasses.
Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News based in California.