SAN DIEGO – The young female gray wolf dubbed JoJo, whose trip up California’s mountains was chronicled by the Associated Press this year, was shot and killed in the vicinity of Channel Islands National Park in Southern California on Thursday night, park officials said.
JoJo was a year old and had not reproduced in recent months. She was thought to be the first of her kind to travel across land from Mexico to the United States.
The 26-year-old wolf’s loss will leave only two packs in the Pacific Northwest – the Oregon and Idaho wolves. And two packs in the Northern Rockies: the Wyoming and Montana wolves.
The four other pairs in the southern Rockies, including two in Utah, both have kittens.
“Like so many journeys across the continent, it is a heroic journey that was ultimately cut short,” the National Park Service said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear who killed JoJo or whether the killing was intentional.
Park ranger Jenny Schwartz said that a person spotted the animal on Thursday night and called authorities. “They were concerned that it was in imminent danger of being killed,” she said.
The park service has prohibited shooting on wildlife within its reserves. According to the National Park Service, gunshots cause the deaths of 17 percent of wildlife examined by park staff and Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologists.
The agency attributed the “epic” journey of JoJo and her sibling, Norma, to the population increase of gray wolves in the region.
Their journey began in April 2017, when they disappeared from a pack near Baja California, Mexico. Weeks later, they resurfaced on nearby Point Conception.
“They proved there was a population of gray wolves in California after they went across the international border into Mexico,” Sarah Hamilton, a wildlife biologist with the park service, told the Associated Press this year.
Hamilton speculated that the two had spent a significant amount of time exploring the area, “probably caused by their unsuccessful reproduction.”
Less than a month later, the pair returned to the mainland, and the landscape of southern California soon became familiar.
On May 25, they were spotted the tallest building in Los Angeles. Two days later, they traveled 2 miles inland to this Coachella Valley community, which borders the city of Palm Springs. On July 3, they again went inland and, first to a parking lot and then through the city, were seen at a farm.
JoJo has become somewhat of a celebrity, and she was even dubbed the Wolf of Lights by a fan. But park service officials had warned that JoJo and Norma were an unlikely breed and that they would eventually be killed.