FRESNO, Calif. — A week or so ago, California’s lone gray wolf passed his first anniversary as a transplant resident with the same technical gear many people possess: a Twitter account and a website about his travels.
‘‘What strikes me about him is that when I talk to the general public they show remarkable knowledge about his movements, much more than some world events,’’ said Richard Callas, a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. ‘‘Wolves captivate public interest.
‘‘No matter how you feel about wolves, when you see one it’s amazing,’’ he added.
Wolf watchers know he doesn’t like busy Interstate 5 or eating cattle, at least so far. He gets along with his distant cousins the coyotes, likes to swim, and roams a lot — an awful lot — around the northernmost reaches of the state.
Far larger than coyotes, wolves were feared and hunted to near-extinction in the United States before being protected by the Endangered Species Act. They were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s, and some migrated into Idaho and Oregon, where they have quickly reproduced.
California’s wolf is known as OR-7 because he was the seventh in Oregon to be fitted with a GPS tracking collar. While most wolves stay within 100 miles of where they were born, OR-7 proved different: he trotted 1,000 miles from northeast Oregon to California, then more than 2,000 since arriving.
Scientists speculate the 3½-year-old is looking for a mate or a new pack, though they know both prospects are remote. He is believed to be the first of the predators to roam within the state’s boundaries since 1924, when the last gray wolf was killed by a trapper intent on making the West safe for cattle.
His presence has prompted action by one state and two federal agencies that now have to figure out how to manage the species if others follow in his 5-inch paw prints. Federal wildlife agencies had not considered California a part of the original western states wolf recovery plan.
The state is considering a petition that would list the wolf as endangered, as he is federally in California. Killing the wolf means a $100,000 federal fine. If the state’s wildlife commission approves the petition come October, authorities would determine how many wolves would be needed to populate a given area before the species would not be considered endangered anymore. It would include a plan to deal with livestock depredation and monitoring for disease such as distemper and rabies.