Officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed Wednesday the presence of two gray wolves in western Lassen County.
Last summer, photographs, tracks and eyewitness sightings suggest the presence of two canids, frequently traveling together, wildlife officials said.
Scat samples also were collected by department scientists and submitted to the University of Idaho’s Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics. Genetic analysis of the samples confirmed the presence of two gray wolves, a male and a female.
“This is another landmark day for wolf recovery in California,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scientists have long said California has great wolf habitat; wolf OR-7 proved that with his historic travels here between 2011 and 2014, and now his son and his son’s mate are helping create a legacy. The female in California is particularly exciting because she’s bringing genetic diversity that’s essential for achieving long-term recovery for wolves in the Golden State.”
There is no evidence suggesting the wolves have produced pups, officials said.
Analysis of scat indicates that the male was born into the Rogue Pack in 2014 and most likely dispersed to Lassen County in late 2015 or 2016, officials said. The founder of the Rogue Pack is the well-known gray wolf OR7, who dispersed from northeast Oregon and traveled around Northern California in 2011 and 2012 before eventually finding a mate and establishing a territory in southern Oregon in 2013, wildlife officials said.
The DNA of the female wolf does not match that of any known individual wolves from Oregon, and initial analyses indicates she is not a close relative of current Oregon wolves.
Gray wolves were eliminated from California more than 100 years ago, until the return of OR7 in 2011.
Gray wolves are currently listed as endangered both federally and within the state of California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and CDFW have no plans to reintroduce gray wolves into California.
Read CDFW’s draft Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves.