It was a major milestone for wildlife conservationists in California when OR-85, a male gray wolf, crossed over the Oregon border and settled in Siskiyou County in November 2020. Now, a new wolf has joined OR-85 in the region, which could create the second known wolfpack in California.
The revelation of the second wolf has conservationists racing to determine its sex and which pack it descended from. Biologists have been working hard to collect feces and fur in order to test its genetics. The assumption is that the wolf is a female and the mating process could ensue any day now.
It’s currently unclear where the second wolf came from. The wolf could have come down from Oregon or could be from the Lassen Pack, California’s only wolfpack in Lassen County.
While this is good news for those lobbying for wolves reintroduction in the California wilderness, it’s bad news for ranchers in the region. For years, the wolves crossing in the state have feasted on livestock, a growing financial burden and physical danger for ranchers. As of January 2021, wolves are no longer federally protected, but they are listed as endangered species in the state. In California, wolf killers could face years in prison.
Following decades of hunting wolves in the 1800’s, the species had disappeared from the state altogether. After wolf reintroduction into Idaho’s Yellowstone National Park in the 1990’s, wolves have slowly moved across nearby states, including Oregon and California.
The only other know wolfpack in California, the Lassen Pack, lives a controversial life in rural Lassen County. With brand-new litters of pups in recent years, the Lassen Pack has grown to 10 current members. Some locals furiously debate their right to live in the region, with some incidents of killing grazing cattle on nearby ranches in the years since their settlement.
The only other known pack in California was the Shasta Pack, which mysteriously disappeared in Siskiyou County in 2018. There are currently multiple investigations in NorCal pertaining to the suspicious deaths of wolves in the area.
Will these Siskiyou wolves create a second wolfpack in California? Only time will tell.