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Shasta Pack Murder? What Happened to NorCal’s Famed Gray Wolfpack?

Photo of the Shasta Pack in 2015

Four years ago, two wolves had a litter of five pups in the shadow of Mount Shasta, marking the first time in nearly a century that gray wolves were born in the state. Named the “Shasta Pack,” the wolves have found a place in California wildlife history, becoming an internet sensation and inspiring new wolf protection laws in California.

Now, the pack has vanished. And quietly, wildlife officials are investigating the case as a murder.

When the Shasta Pack pups were born in Modoc County, environmentalists praised it as a revival of wolf populations in Northern California, but local ranchers saw it as a threat to their livestock. While officials attempt to track NorCal wolves, it proves nearly impossible and sometimes they disappear for long stretches, only to reappear in a different area later on. But with recent developments with wolf protections in the state and continued conflict with ranchers, some think the vanishing of the pack is no accident.

In December of 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 and was the beginning of a long battle between cattle ranchers and environmentalists, who have different views of the animals place in the state.

OR-7

Just weeks ago, environmentalists scored a victory when a San Diego Superior Court Judge tossed out a case filed by California farming and ranching associations that challenged the protective status of wolves in the state. With their livelihoods at stake, are ranchers killing these rare wolves to protect their cattle?

Wildlife officials in Oregon have claimed that 15 wolves have been illegally killed in recent years, with just two people being prosecuted for those deaths. In California, wolf killers could face years in prison.

On December 2, 2018, a wolf dubbed OR-59 traveled into NorCal from Oregon wearing a GPS collar. Three days later, it was spotted feasting on the carcass of a local calf. Although investigators indicated the calf died from a pneumonia, ranchers saw it as vindication of their wolf worries. On December 9, OR-59’s tracker indicated it had died and investigators have provided little details into where or how it perished.

Fast-forward to the Shasta Pack, who have terrorized ranchers for years in Siskiyou County. After a tense standoff with ranchers, the wolves were found feeding on a carcass. They haven’t been seen since, which brings many questions for environmentalists and wildlife officials alike.

Ranchers claim that their standoffs and run-ins with loggers eventually scared the pack out of the area. But the ongoing poaching case shows little faith in that theory. Is it just a coincidence that the pack left the area after the standoff, or did ranchers take the livelihood of their cattle into their own hands?

Lassen Pack

The Shasta Pack isn’t the only famous wolfpack in NorCal. The Lassen Pack, a family with lineage to the famed OR-7, resides comfortable in Lassen and Plumas Counties. The parents have had two litters, but have also been seen killing cattle in Lassen County.

The revival of wolves in Northern California remains a controversial topic in rural communities. The fascinating animals diversify the local ecosystems while creating legitimate arguments between conservation and protecting personal property.

As the beautiful wolves travel through the area, can they get along with local ranchers? Or is the bloody battle between wolves and ranchers just getting started?

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Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

10 Comments

  1. The Lassen pack is alive and well, killing cattle near Weswood. They have a den on our logging site, and are not bothered by our operations. Biologists are out there all the time checking on them.
    The last paragraph is odd. It seems to put human emotion on the animals as if they are capable of compromise. “As the wolves travel through, can they get along with ranchers?” (They aren’t traveling through, they have set up residence. My brother and I reported wolves on the Hat Creek Rim 25 years ago to fish and game, and were laughed at. Wolves aren’t going to try to “get along with local ranchers” they are an apex predator with 2 things in mind. Eat, and breed. The true question is; if the wolves keep killing cattle, will the ranchers be able to protect their property? Or do they have to sit there and watch it happen for fear of prosecution?

    1. Are cattle ear-tagged with an identifiable number so that any lost livestock can be tracked, if lost?
      Around the perimeter of Yellowstone park in Montana, bears and wolves kill several dozen head of cattle every year but the system in place there allows ranchers to be compensated (based on future value, not just at the time of taking) for each one lost to predators.
      Maybe California needs such a system there, too.

      1. That’s actually a great idea.. but unfortunately, this state only knows how to ‘take’ money from business owners, not give it away… So I don’t see them adopting such program any time soon…

    1. Murder is murder, regardless of what is being killed. Wolves are doing nothing more than being themselves. If they get hungry, they eat. This instinct is no different than yours. Ranchers and conservationists in the northern plain states have found a way to balance the need of wolves with theirs and it is working. I’m assuming you have seen the video that recently surfaced of two Alaska hunters heartlessly murdering a bear and her cubs while hibernating?

  2. Maybe it is other apex predator, the mountain lion, taking out the Wolves. By the way, have they found any dead wolves? You cant have a death without a carcass.

  3. Pretty sure I saw one of them (a younger one) about 50′ outside my back fence just after that big snow storm about a month ago.. Was stalking something…

    Was about the size of a coyote, but ain’t never seen no coyote around here with those colors.. Colored just like those wolves… I live in eastern shingletown, back at the end of long hay flat, about 5 miles or less outside the park…

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