This past spring, at least three gray wolves were born in Lassen or Plumas counties, authorities reported. With just a handful of wolves still in California, experts say the pups represent a positive step forward toward statewide wolf recovery.
The gray wolf is a Californian native species, but was extirpated from the state in the 1920s, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In the late 1990s, several states including California began efforts to reintroduce the species. But progress has been slow in California.
The state’s first known contemporary pack, the Shasta Pack, was first spotted in August 2014 in Siskiyou County, but disappeared in northwestern Nevada in late 2016, the department said in a news brief.
The new pups were born around April 15, 2019, from a female breeding wolf of the second and only known pack in California, the Lassen Pack.
A trail camera spotted them June 18 eating grass and rambling playfully alongside two adult wolves in a remote location in Lassen or Plumas counties, according to The Mercury News.
After the pups were caught on camera, experts from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the national Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services spent nine days trying to trap and radio collar the wolves to track their location, but they said in a quarterly report they were unsuccessful.
While the exact number of gray wolves in California is uncertain, a wolf biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife told The Mercury News the three pups raise the total in the state to between seven and 10.
This is good news, biologist and senior advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity in Petaluma, Amaroq Weiss, told the Mercury News. “Wolves are important for ecosystems,” she said. “Wolves are part of what keeps nature healthy, and what keeps nature wild.”
According to Weiss, wolves keep elk and deer in check, preventing the vegetation from getting “over-eaten” and providing nesting materials for birds and building materials for beavers, which in turn create ponds for frogs and fish.
That’s part of the reason why gray wolves are protected as endangered species under both California and federal Endangered Species Acts.
Local authorities said they rely on the public to keep the wolves safe and to help them locate live or killed animals.
To tell whether the animal you spotted is a wolf, coyote or dog you can visit CDFW’s online guide. To report a killed animal, reach out to authorities immediately by calling 530-225-2300 or visiting firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you believe you’ve spotted a live wolf, fill out this online form.