The gray wolf was once found throughout much of California, with its likely range including the Sierra Nevada, southern Cascades, Modoc Plateau, and the Klamath Mountains. Evidence suggests they may have also been found in the Central Valley, Sierra Nevada foothills, and Coastal Ranges. However, the animal was extirpated from the state by the 1920s, likely due to hunting and predator control. As gray wolves have rebounded in Oregon, though, some have filtered into California. Now, a new pack has been discovered further south in the state than any of the other recent arrivals.
Last week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that there is a new gray wolf pack in Tulare County. Located between Fresno and Bakersfield, the county is home to Sequoia National Park and a portion of Kings Canyon National Park. The area of the county in which the wolves were sighted is at least 200 air miles south of the closest known pack in the state.
CDFW says they were alerted to a wolf sighting in Sequoia National Forest in July. When they investigated the area, they found wolf tracks and other signs of their presence. Scat and hair samples taken from the scene were all confirmed to be from gray wolves.
A news release from the agency says, “The new pack consists of at least five individuals not previously detected in California, including one adult female, who is a direct descendant of California’s first documented wolf in the state in recent history, (OR7), and four offspring (two females, two males). None of the samples collected came from an adult male, however the genetic profile from the offspring indicate that the breeding male is a descendant of the Lassen Pack.”
The Lassen Pack’s range includes parts of Lassen and Plumas counties, located in northeastern California. Eastern Plumas County is also home to the Beckwourth Pack, while a third confirmed group – the Whaleback Pack – ranges throughout eastern Siskiyou County, which borders Oregon. Two new groups – not yet designated as packs – were found in the Golden State earlier this year, as well, one in Tehama County and another in western Lassen County.