Northern California had been part of the Gray Wolf’s historical range until they were extirpated from the area in 1924, as part of concentrated (and unfortunately, largely successful) extermination efforts conducted during westward expansion of European settlers in North America. A tracked wolf designated as OR17 has crossed the border from Oregon to California periodically, but researchers believe that he is currently the breeding male in southern Oregon’s Rogue Pack. Camera traps were installed after a single wolf was spotted in Siskiyou County in May and July of this year, and photographs from the traps recently confirmed the presence of two adults and a litter of five pups choosing to make their home in California.
The pups look like they are a few months old, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife believes that the adult that was photographed in May and July is likely one of the parents. The CDFW is now referring to the wolves as the Shasta Pack.
The discovery of the Shasta Pack is timely, as last year the California Fish and Game Commission just added Gray Wolves to California’s Endangered Species Act, which operates in conjumction with the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. With this change, Gray Wolves are completely protected in California, and it is illegal to “ harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect wolves, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct in California.”
That being said, wolves still have a negative reputation among cattle ranchers and other humans who raise livestock that may be targeted by large predators, and public opinion still clings to a perception of wolves as man-eaters. The CDFW is working on a Wolf Management Plan and is reaching out to the public to hear their concerns while still protecting the wolves. They also rely on citizens to report Gray Wolf sightings to help track their movements. People are advised to never approach or attempt to feed or interact with a wolf, and to yell aggressively or throw objects to scare it away.