Wolf activity in Northern California is reaching unprecedented levels as yet another gray wolf has traveled over the Oregon border and settled into Siskiyou County. He’s the second to travel into the state this year, creating a possibly the largest wolf population in California in over 100 years.
The male wolf, dubbed OR-103, traveled hundreds of miles through Southern Oregon to cross the border into California on May 4. His pack of origin is unknown, although wildlife officials have tracked his journey from Deschutes County using his GPS collar.
“We’re thrilled that California’s tiny population of wolves is growing,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.
OR-103 followed the path blazed by another young male gray wolf who has traveled the furthest south into California ever recorded. OR-93 crossed the border in February and has since traveled all the way down into the Eastern Sierra and along the central coast. OR-93 is traveling at an astounding rate with his current location unknown.
Following decades of hunting wolves in the 1800’s, the species had disappeared from California 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.
Since the famed wolf OR-7 traveled from Oregon to California in 2011, there have been two known wolfpacks in the state. Currently, the Lassen Pack lives in Lassen County and has produced litters for the past three years. The only other known pack in California was the Shasta Pack, which mysteriously disappeared in Siskiyou County in 2018. There are currently two wolves cohabitating in Siskiyou County but it’s still unknown if they will produce a wolfpack in the region.
The reintroduction of wolves into California has been highly controversial. 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.
“Thankfully OR-103 came here, where there are full state protections in place, and not Idaho, whose governor just signed into law a bill allowing hunters to kill most of the state’s wolves,” said Weiss.