RENO, Nev. -- A young gray wolf's search for a mate apparently won't take him to the northern Nevada desert where the annual Burning Man festival is staged.
The wolf known as OR-7 came within 15 miles of the Nevada line near Susanville, Calif., early last week before he decided to head back west away from the nation's most arid state, said Mark Stopher, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game. It had been headed toward the Black Rock Desert where the eclectic art and music festival is held each summer, wildlife officials said.
The 2-year-old wolf has wandered hundreds of miles across Oregon and northern California.
"My interpretation is that he turned back from there (closest point to Nevada) and returned to a spot he had spent time at because he knew there was food at that location, and he wasn't finding it where he was," Stopher told The Associated Press. The last report placed the wolf in forested western Lassen County, Calif., about 60 miles west of the Nevada border, Stopher added.
He said the wolf "was in drier terrain that wasn't suitable wolf habitat and returned to a location he had been at before. He had no way of knowing what he would find to the east (in Nevada)."
The animal, which was fitted with a GPS tracking collar last spring, was at the southernmost point of his journey to date when he was closest to Nevada. That point was along U.S. 395 about 115 miles north of Reno.
The wolf was born in northeastern Oregon but left his pack to seek out a mate and a new territory in September. He crossed into California at the end of December, becoming the first wolf in that state in more than 80 years.
Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said it's good that the wolf didn't enter Nevada. While ranchers and hunters have reported seeing wolves in Nevada in recent decades, the last confirmed sighting occurred in 1931 in Elko County in the northeastern part of the state, he said.
"He wouldn't have found love in Nevada because there are no female wolves here," he told AP. "He's definitely made a turn for the good, as far as we're concerned."
Not only does western Nevada lack elk and moose that wolves thrive on elsewhere in the West, but it has scarce water sources, Healy added. "He better bring a canteen and a backpack if he comes into Nevada," he told the Bend Bulletin of Oregon. "There is not a lot of wolf habitat."
Healy said it would have been exciting had the wolf ended up on the Black Rock Desert playa where tens of thousands of people gather for Burning Man, the weeklong celebration of art and radical self-expression leading up to Labor Day.
At the time he reversed course, the wolf was heading on an eastward line toward the sprawling desert, which is not far from the Nevada-California border.
"That would have been so much karma and harmonic convergence had he made it there," he said. "But he's got to make a living, and the farther east you go, the more inhospitable the country is for wolves."