California Might be Home to Six Wolf Packs — a First in 100 Years

A pair of NorCal wolf groups — one in Tehama County, the other in western Lassen County — was verified last week, potentially becoming California’s fifth and sixth documented wolf packs.

Gray wolves once roamed the vast majority of the continental United States. But because of deforestation, urbanization, and both legal and illegal hunting practices, their populations in the wild have plummeted. Some two million wolves once roamed the United States; nowadays there are just about an estimated 7,500 gray wolves in the lower 48 states.

Thankfully, due to increasing conservation efforts, populations of gray wolves are on an upswing in many of their historic territories — which includes Northern California.

“It brings me great joy to see California’s wolves continue to increase in number, aided by the strong state and federal protections here,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. “Wolves rewild the landscape and that’s good not just for the wolves but for entire ecosystems.”

Back in March, a trail cam managed to capture photographs of three wolves in Tehama County on private land. In addition to those trail cam shots, more evidence of wolves was captured in western Lassen County on three different occasions during the start of this year.

The CA Fish and Wildlife Department is still surveying these areas to determine if either group had pups this year — and if/when they do, they’ll be considered “wolf families,” also referred to as “wolf packs,” possibly becoming the fifth and sixth established in California. This status will ultimately come down to another study by the department. (This will also decide if any of these possible packs have any lineage with CA’s existing four.)

And FYI: If all things check out, it will have been over a century since the Golden State has seen this many wolf packs within the state’s borders.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that these two new groups of wolves will officially become families by having pups of their own,” said Weiss. “I’m also looking forward to the department bestowing these wolf families with pack names to reflect their presence and significance.”

For a species that went extinct on a statewide level in 1920, to see gray wolves return to California — in growing numbers, no less — is a welcomed wavelength to an increasingly low-vibrational news cycle.

Feature image: Courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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