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A wolf stands inside its enclosure at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, Colo. In California, wildlife officials four new packs of endangered gray wolves have been located in the past five months. Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images
wildlife Wolves

A surprising number of new wolf packs have suddenly appeared in California

A wolf stands inside its enclosure at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, Colo. In California, wildlife officials four new packs of endangered gray wolves have been located in the past five months.

Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images
A wolf stands inside its enclosure at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, Colo. In California, wildlife officials four new packs of endangered gray wolves have been located in the past five months.
Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

Four new packs of wolves have established themselves in California in the past five months, bringing the grand total to eight new wolf packs since 2015 — and counting.


The four packs, announced Wednesday by state wildlife officials, were documented in Tehama County in central Northern California, Lassen and Plumas counties in the northeastern part of the state, and Tulare County in the Central Valley southeast of Fresno. 

The Tulare County sighting of an adult female and four offspring was the southernmost report of any wolf pack in California’s modern history, hundreds of miles from the usual spots wolves have settled.

The sightings, and especially the presence in Tulare County, suggest that California is becoming a more habitable environment for its endangered species of gray wolves, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Holy smokes, what fantastic progress we’re witnessing in wolf recovery in California,” Amaroq Weiss, a senior wolf advocate at the center, said in a news release. “The homecoming of wolves to California is an epic story of a resilient species we once tried to wipe from the face of the Earth.”

Though the gray wolf is native to California, the animal was hunted to extinction in the 1920s, the Chronicle reported. It is now illegal to intentionally kill any wolves in the state.

Some ranchers and rural residents, however, remain uneasy over the wolves’ expanded range. 

In May, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it had expanded its Wolf-Livestock Compensation Pilot Program, through which ranchers can apply for compensation due to wolf attacks, or seek money for deploying nonlethal deterrents to keep wolves away from livestock.

In March, wildlife officials captured photographs of three wolves in Tehama County from a trail camera on private land. Little is known about the wolves’ origin or full number, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.


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The Plumas County pack includes at least two adults and two pups. The breeding adults for that pair have been identified through DNA testing as partial siblings from a double litter in 2020. 

The Lassen County pack has a minimum of two adults and an unknown number of pups. According to genetic analysis, the male is not from a known California or Oregon pack, but the female is an offspring from the Whaleback Pack’s 2021 litter. The Whaleback Pack is a group of wolves that has been seen in Siskiyou County.

DNA testing from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife suggested the Tulare County pack had contained at least five individuals not previously known to live in California, baffling wildlife experts who wondered how the wolves had managed to travel so far down the state.

The adult female is believed to have come from California from southwest Oregon’s Rogue Pack, while her male breeding pair originated from the Lassen Pack’s 2020 double litter. 

Genetic testing also suggested that the female of the pair is a descendant of the first documented wolf to enter the state since the animals were hunted off in the 1920s.

That wolf, known to wildlife officials as OR7, migrated to the state from Oregon in 2011 and later returned, but is presumed dead, the Chronicle reported. OR7 traveled through seven northeastern counties in California before returning to his home state of Oregon, finding a mate, and building his Rogue Pack, according to officials from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Since then, several of his offspring have come to California and established new packs, including the breeding female of the new Tulare County pack and the original breeding male of the Lassen Pack, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. 

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Source:

Annie Vainshtein at San Francisco Chronicle



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