This May Be the Greatest Wildlife Photo Ever Taken in California. Here’s Why.

It’s been a few days since award-winning photographer Randy Robbins shared his stunning image of the Lassen Pack in the remote Northern California wilderness. After the excitement started to wear off I got to thinking – is this the greatest wildlife photo ever captured in California?

Let’s take a look at the circumstances: In 2011, a lone wolf dubbed OR-7 wandered across the Oregon border into California, traveling as far south as Butte County before eventually returning to Oregon. It was the first time a gray wolf was seen in the state since the early 1900’s, when wolves were killed off by gold miners. In 2017, two wolves settled in Lassen County (one of OR-7’s lineage) and produced five litters of pups totaling 28 wolves altogether, singlehandedly reviving the wolf population in the state.

Needless to say, the Lassen Pack is probably the most famous and scrutinized wild animals in California. Up until now, they’ve never been professionally photographed.

Today, there are three verified packs in California and other lone wolfs dispersed throughout the wilderness, bringing to the total number of wolves to 20, most of them residing in Northern California. Various trail cams from the CDFW provide glimpses of the wolves and GPS collars give wolf specialists an idea of their habits in nature.

Living in Lassen County, Robbins has had a desire to photograph the wolves for years. He spent two years in the wilderness before he even saw a paw print. After making connections with the CDFW and wolf specialists in the state, he was able to get a general whereabouts of their location (it’s kept secret due to the controversial nature of wolf repopulation in the state) and began actively setting up complicated wildlife cameras. Finally, he captured the best glimpse of the Lassen Pack ever seen.

Robbins isn’t a stranger to the arduous world of wildlife photography. In 2019, he won the Sierra Nevada Conservancy California Wildlife Photo of the Year for his capture of an eagle catching a fish on Antelope Lake. Since his achievement, he has become popular for his trail cam photos and wildlife composites that illustrate the vast wildlife of NorCal.

Randy Robbins award-winning photo of an eagle catching a fish on Antelope Lake

But Robbins’ new crowning achievement is his photo of one of the most rare animals in the state. It’s difficult to say what the status of wolves will be in California in the next couple of decades, but it’s safe to say we’ll look at his photo as important historical documentation of wolf reintroduction in the state.

It’s not often when moments emerge that you know will be remembered through history. This is one of those moments. Great work, Randy!

Watch his video on the epic photo, including some trail cam video of the Lassen Pack:

Zach O'Brien

Zach O'Brien is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Active NorCal

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