Big Wolf News in the Golden State!

The Golden State is now home to its second wolf family – the Lassen Pack.

Last week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced the discovery of a new family of wolves, the Lassen Pack. The new pack has at least three confirmed pups, and CDFW successfully collared the alpha female on June 30th. Considering that wolves were absent from the California landscape for nearly 90 years, a second new wolf family establishing itself in the northern part of the state in the span of three summers is nothing short of momentous. The presence of the Lassen Pack marks an exciting new chapter in wolf recovery in the Pacific West.

A Short History of Gray Wolves in California

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is a native species that was driven to local extinction in California by 1924. In 2011, a male gray wolf, dubbed OR-7 because he was the seventh wolf collared in Oregon, traveled hundreds of miles from his pack in northeastern Oregon to become the first documented gray wolf to enter California in nearly 90 years.

OR-7’s arrival in the Golden State prompted members of the public to petition the California Fish and Game Commission to list the gray wolf as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). On June 4, 2014, the commission found that such listing was warranted and voted in favor of listing gray wolves under CESA.

Independent of the state’s listing, CDFW prepared for the return of wolves to California by convening a Stakeholder Working Group, comprised of ranchers, hunters, and environmental conservation organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife. This diverse group assisted CDFW in the development of the Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California, which was finalized in December 2016.

Wolves Rediscover California

Shasta Pack

In spring 2015, a CDFW trail camera in Siskiyou County recorded a lone wolf. Additional cameras deployed in the vicinity took multiple photos showing two adults and five pups. CDFW designated this as the Shasta Pack due to its vicinity near Mt. Shasta. The whereabouts of the Shasta Pack is unknown at this time, with the last known siting via trail camera in California in May 2016, and a juvenile male confirmed to have been in northwestern Nevada in November 2016.

In November 2016, CDFW confirmed a pair of wolves in western Lassen County (now known as the Lassen Pack). After several attempts to track and trap one of these two wolves, they were able to capture and collar the female in late June 2017. Shortly thereafter, they made an even more exciting discovery:  images of three wolf pups playing in front of a nearby trail camera. Genetic analysis shows that the alpha male is OR-7’s son, which dispersed southeast from the Rogue Pack in southern Oregon.

The latest news of California’s second wolf pack underscores the fact that wolves are making their way back to their historical range here. OR-7 proved that a wolf could make the trek to California. The Shasta Pack gave us hope that wolves would take up residency here. Now the presence of the Lassen Pack shows that wolves are eager to return to their native territory in the Golden State.

Preparing the Way

The announcement of the Lassen Pack comes on the heels of a workshop in Shasta County that was co-hosted by Defenders, during which more than 80 attendees learned about various methods to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts. One key takeaway from the event was that diverse stakeholders, including ranchers, wildlife managers, and environmental conservationists, agree on the importance of fitting at least one wolf from each known wolf family with a collar to track pack activities and inform local landowners and ranchers of nearby wolf presence.

With that in mind, it’s particularly encouraging to learn that CDFW has successfully collared the Lassen Pack’s alpha female, the first wolf ever captured and collared by our state wildlife officials. We hope the information gathered by the collar can help inform management and coexistence efforts – proactive strategies that can prevent or minimize conflicts between livestock and our state’s newest wolves.

Coexisting with Wolves

For more than 30 years, Defenders of Wildlife has led the way in reducing conflicts with predators, from polar bears in Alaska, to panthers in Florida, grizzlies in the northern Rockies to wolves throughout the United States. Coexistence is an important way to secure a real future for these iconic species.

Defenders’ California program continues to make coexistence efforts a top priority. Our staff members give educational presentations and host workshops with other coexistence experts across the state. We have also provided tools to livestock producers in need of assistance with implementing proactive methods for reducing conflicts with predators.

Through a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Defenders will be hosting range rider trainings in the coming year. Range riders are one important strategy used to reduce conflict between wolves and livestock by increasing human presence in the field. Range riders monitor livestock for signs of stress, illness and injury, work to keep livestock closely herded to minimize vulnerability to attack, and track predator activity in order to move livestock out of harm’s way when necessary.

California has a golden opportunity to forge new partnerships to reduce potential conflicts between our nascent wolf population and livestock that are the lifeblood to so many ranching families in the northern part of the state. Lawmakers, conservation professionals, local officials and private landowners should increase cooperative efforts to help ranchers use proven, nonlethal methods to keep both livestock and wolves safe from harm.

Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the status of gray wolf conservation and other developments important to wildlife and our work. Don’t forget to sign up for our emails where you will get all the latest news and action alerts to support wildlife.

37 Responses to “Big Wolf News in the Golden State!”

  1. Valerie Aubrey

    Are these wolves the native species originally in Ca prior to 1929 or are these a non native species introduced from the Rocky Mts?

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      Hello Valerie, and thanks for reaching out! This is the same species that was found in California prior to 1924.

    • Donna Kanipe

      I pray they stay well and healthy. Its so good to hear about them. I’m on their side big time.

  2. Andrew Dignum

    Awesome news, nature is fighting back, and we need to do all that we can to help.🐺

  3. Joan Reynolds

    Please… Save these Wolves. So hard to know we are losing the battles across America of all our wildlife.

  4. Iris Owens

    What wonderful news, but please don’t publish where these beautiful animals are located. It will only encourage these cruel, cowards who call themselves hunters to come out in droves with one thing in mind – to kill.

  5. Iris Owens

    What wonderful news, but please don’t publish where these wolves are located as it will only bring out these cruel cowards who call themselves hunters to come out and kill.

  6. charlotte cook

    Wonderful news, and great work on Defenders’ part to assist with wolf/livestock coexistence education and programs.

  7. JR Tibbetts

    This is incredibly great news, which I am so glad to hear. Given legislation concerning wildlife which has been coming out of Washington DC lately, California is probably one of the few states where wolves stand a good chance of being safeguarded and cherished, rather than hunted to extinction. Also, to Valerie’s question, even if these wolves did migrate into California from the Rockies, they would still be the gray wolf species that was native to California. At one time, the ‘North American’ gray wolf ranged over much of Canada and the northern United States. Wolves don’t recognize the human concept of state and country borders. ^_^ If I remember correctly, we’ve only ever had four distinct types of wolves here, which were the Gray Wolves in the north, the Red Wolves in the south, that we share with Mexico, the Arctic Wolves up in The Northern most parts of Canada and Alaska, and the now extinct Buffalo Wolves that once inhabited the Great Plains.

  8. Caroline

    This is fantastic. Thank all of you who keep wolves around and treasured. Good luck keeping them coming around and safe. I pray for their safe return. Please help them and teach the public how we need them and then need not be a harm but a beautiful addition to the world. Love the earth and the natural life it brings us and it will love you back.

  9. Dee

    This announcement has me very happy. You GO New York! Thank you New York, New York. I hope what goes around, comes around to you.

  10. Sally

    Part of me is very happy to see the growth of wolf packs in CA, but I do worry the wolves will run into the problems facing those in other Western states. I feel that most people feel threatened by them. Also, the energy companies and ranchers want to eliminate them. I am sure this would happen in CA. The poisoning, trapping and aerial shooting are cruel. How can this be prevented in CA?

  11. Joanne Mapother

    I am so excited about the wolves. Please protect them, do not let those who would harm them know where they are. I love wolves, they are beautiful and magnificent.

  12. Richard Ohlendorf

    We need to save the wolfs and all the endangered species from those who do not care about their survival.

  13. Mikki McBride

    Has there been anymore effort to locate the Shasta pack? One article I read said they suspected this pack had been illegally killed and only one of the male pups was later seen in NW Nevada. I do my best to protect our wolves by word of mouth and by Facebook. I have a cousin that lives in Gazelle, near Yreka, also a rancher and they are not happy with the return on the wolves. What else can we do to help people like this understand the wolves are simply coming home where they belong and to work with Defenders to keep them here, healthy and also keep their own livestock safe?

    • Lisa Reed

      Mikki, this is where co-existence efforts come into play. Defenders is a leader in helping ranchers put proven proactive, conflict reduction solutions in place to prevent attacks on livestock. Read more about our efforts here: http://dfnd.us/2wmFfUC

  14. Mark Hughes

    Is there a way to keep cattle off of public lands? It appears that ranchers
    are unable to protect their cattle from wolves in these areas. It’s sad but
    the dept. of Fish and Wildlife in Washington continues to show a lack of
    transparency when it comes to wolf removal. Mark in Seattle

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      We are pushing for the Forest Service to change what they consider “best management practices” for when they allow grazing in known wolf territories. Since the Forest Service allows grazing allotments on public lands, it needs be held accountable and to participate more actively in this process to avoid future conflicts.

  15. Ann Neef

    Exciting news! Now if we could get the rest of the country on board……

  16. Marcia Kellam

    These beautiful wolves and their adorable puppies are a testament to this incredible species. And any efforts and successes we have in living WITH wolves is going to benefit us all.

  17. Catherine Joyce-Coll

    Defernders..I live in New Mexico and have long been a supporter of Defenders of Wildlife. I am wondering if there is anything you are doing or can do, to help the wolves here I am afraid the ranchers in southern NM are shooting our wolves as fast as they can find them. The Republicans here support the ranchers and need to be educated when possible. I do know that you hold seminars here sometimes

  18. Catherine Joyce-Coll

    Defernders..I live in New Mexico and have long been a supporter of Defenders of Wildlife. I am wondering if there is anything you are doing or can do, to help the wolves here I am afraid the ranchers in southern NM are shooting our wolves as fast as they can find them. The Republicans here support the ranchers and need to be educated when possible. I do know that you hold seminars here sometimes.

  19. Catherine Joyce-Coll

    Defenders..I live in New Mexico and have long been a supporter of Defenders of Wildlife. I am wondering if there is anything you are doing or can do, to help the wolves here I am afraid the ranchers in southern NM are shooting our wolves as fast as they can find them. The Republicans here support the ranchers and need to be educated when possible. I do know that you hold seminars here sometimes.

  20. Kerry G Dowdell

    This is a thrilling and very encouraging report! Thank you all for your conservation efforts. Brilliant to bring all parties who have been in opposition, previously, together.

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Kerry! The Lassen Pack give us hope for wolves everywhere.

  21. John Sargent

    I wanted to add: Dispersing wolves can colonize areas hundreds of miles from their original pack. So if they came from the Rockies or Oregon it is still a natural behaviour that is charateristic of this species.

  22. LYN & PETER MCDONALD

    I am appalled at the number of messages that I receive showing the threat to the wolves throughout the world – why can’t humans and the wolf packs live in harmony – with adequate protection the wolves are not a threat to the farmers or their live stock, but a few sacrifices must be made but once the farmers make their stock wolf free, they will no longer prove a menace to the livestock – the Wolves deserve some protection from man, we cannot afford to lose this valuable member of our eco system.

  23. eli

    i welcome any wild life thriving in nature and enriching our bio diversity. wolves are known to help revitalise rivers and trees. people should do everything in order to let them be and co exist with them.

  24. Luci De Andrade

    This article brought me to tears of joy. I lived in Susanville, Ca. & the surrounding area for several years. I’ve been away from my gorgeous Susanville for about as long now as I HAD BEEN living there, & sadly I will never to be able to return. Not once in my entire time there (even when camping) was I ever BLESSED to hear the AWESOME howls of a wolf pack. To learn of their return to the area fills me with with joy so abounding that NO WORDS could EVER possibly adequately express it. PLEASE CONTINUE to do your best to protect these precious babies (yes, even the adults are precious babies to me). I took the handle, LadyBlackWolf, SEVERAL years ago, after having been able to romp w/a pure bred female black wolf. Her mate (who was not anywhere near as outgoing as she was) stood by & watched every move I made w/her, as did their owner (for my protection of course) To my dying day, I pray I will NEVER forget that AWESOME afternoon. It breaks my heart when I am asked to donate, as I am a very Senior Citizen now & unable to to do so, due to age related poor health, high rent increases & everything else that goes along w/being poor, ill & old. Those “Golden Years” we heard so much about, they’re VERY tarnished now & don’t seem to be able to be brought back to their luster.

  25. Linda Shaw

    Are ranchers pledging not to kill these wolves when their whereabouts are revealed to them?

  26. Kim Piper Bartasavich

    So inspiring! Thank you for the good news, and all of the work you do!! 🙂

  27. Miroslav

    Congratulations for wolves in California! Greetings from Belgrade, Serbia, in the Balkans where many of us also try to save our wolves.

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