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Gray Wolf Returns to California

This gray wolf is part of the first known pack in California in almost 90 years. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game.
This gray wolf is part of the first known pack in California in almost 90 years. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game.
August 27, 2015

MOUNT SHASTA, Calif. - The wolf pack is back - literally! A pack of gray wolves has been discovered in California for the first time since they were hunted almost to extinction about 90 years ago.

Trail cameras recently caught sight of what's known as the Shasta pack in Siskiyou County near Mount Shasta. Pamela Flick with the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife says the gray wolf has been under federal protection since 1973 but was just listed as endangered in California last year, making it illegal to hunt or harass the animals.

"The Shasta pack is known to have at least five pups and the alpha male and female," says Flick. "The presence of a whole pack affirms that wolves know that there is suitable habitat in our state and are already using it. Grey wolves are back for good."

The wolves are believed to have spread from existing packs in Oregon. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been working with stakeholders in conservation, livestock production and hunting interests to develop a California Wolf Plan, which will be released for public comment by the end of the year.

Kimberly Baker is with the nonprofit Environmental Protection Information Center.

"I look forward to a day where we have viable populations of wolves and wolves and humans are coexisting and sharing the landscape together," says Baker.

Flick says her group is working with ranchers to make the repopulation of wolves in California go smoothly.

"Defenders of Wildlife has a lot of experience in working with nonlethal tools to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock so that they can live in harmony and share the same landscape," she says.

In the future, Fish and Game biologists plan to briefly capture one of the adult wolves so the animal can be fitted with a tracking device and then released.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA