Critters: Wolf Pack

There is some good news about California’s gray wolf (Canis lupus) population. This protected endangered species is slowly coming back to northern California after being run out in the 1920s. It is tough to be a returning wolf. Though the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is not in the business of reintroducing gray wolves to the state, the Department does keep tabs on wolves and encourages people to report sightings of wolves moving in from nearby states. Their goal is to capture wolves, test the animals for disease, record their DNA, fit them with tracking collars and release them back into the wild. In March 2023 the CDFW was able to capture and collar two gray wolves in Siskiyou County. “The capture of these wolves is fantastic since we lost the only functioning satellite collar last summer,” said CDFW’s wolf specialist Kent Laudon, and they are noticing “interesting movements on agriculture lands.” However, livestock owners, who are not fond of wolves who may catch and kill their animals, are apt to kill any that threaten their stock. So, many wolves, collared or not, are destroyed. The CDFW is now at work with livestock producers urging them to use non-lethal deterrent methods to keep wolves away from their ranches and offering compensation of associated costs.

Drawing by Abigail Maxey

With the hope that the non-lethal deterrents work, wolves can still get into trouble. In 2021 the lone collared wolf, OR-93, an adventurer who knew how to get around, was deft at navigating freeways. He became famous for being an intrepid voyager as he worked his way south. He did get as far as 50 miles north of Los Angeles maybe on his way to see San Diego, but, sadly, was found dead, hit by a vehicle.


OR85, one of the wolves captured in March in Siskiyou County, a four-year-old black 98-pound male who traveled from northeastern Oregon where he had been collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in February 2020, met up with a gray female wolf from southwestern Oregon. They formed the Whaleback Pack. The good news: the pair produced litters of seven pups in 2021 and eight pups in 2022. Now, three packs, the Whaleback, the Lassen, and Beckwourth are being studied along with the earlier known Shasta pack.