The discovery of a wolf pack in Northern California – five pups and two adults – is proof of the continuing westward expansion of the controversial predators.
California has not had a wolf pack in more than 90 years, and with the exception of two lone gray wolves that entered the state from Oregon in late 2011, and in July of this year, the last known wild wolf to reside in California was in 1924.
"The news is exciting for California," Charlton H. Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a news release issued Thursday. "We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time."
Said Jamie Rappaport, president of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife: "We have been given a second chance to restore this iconic species to a landscape they had been missing from for nearly one hundred years. We must seize this opportunity to forge new partnerships to help wolves live in harmony with people and livestock in their California home."
The wolf spotted in December 2011 was a GPS-collared animal cataloged as OR7, who became famous for ranging across Oregon into California, during a lengthy and fruitless search for a mate. He has since returned to southern Oregon and is the breeding male of what is known as the Rogue Pack.
The second wolf photographed twice near the Siskiyou-Shasta County border, via motion-sensor trail camera, is believed to one of the adults raising the five pups. The CDFW, which captured the new images with additional trail cameras placed in the same general area, has designated this new family the Shasta Pack.
Wolves were eradicated throughout the West in the early 1900s by trappers and ranchers. Their reintroduction in the Northern Rockies in 1995 was controversial not only because of livestock concerns, but because of possible impacts on elk herds in some areas.
The cunning predators, believed by many to play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem by thinning deer and elk herds of their weakest members, have flourished and have now spread to seven states (counting California).
After OR7 crossed the state line in 2011, the CDWF began to prepare for the eventuality that wolves would someday return.
In June 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to list gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act. Gray wolves also are listed as federally endangered in California.
It’s illegal to hunt, trap, wound or harass the animals, and the CDWF is in the process of formulating a management plan, after meeting with stakeholders.
The precise location of the Shasta Pack was not divulged to protect the animals.
Northern California residents, however, are asked to report wolf sightings on the CDFW website.
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