A gray wolf made major headlines after it made the long trek across the Oregon border and all the way down the wilderness near Yosemite National Park. Itâ€™s the furthest south into California that wildlife officials have tracked a wolf and it begs the questions – where does the wolf go from here?
The wolf, dubbed OR-93, dispersed from Oregonâ€™s White River pack, southeast of Mt. Hood, fitted with a tracking collar. After arriving in Modoc County in early February 2021, he quickly passed through portions of numerous California counties before arriving in Alpine County, between the trans-Sierra State Highways 4 and 108. He then moved just into Mono County, putting him hundreds of miles from the Oregon state line and his natal territory.
Petros Chrysafis, an independent scientist working in human-wildlife conflict in Central Calfironia, recently took to Twitter to explain why the wolf traveled that far and what it might do from here.
“So lets talk about OR-93 shall we?” wrote Chrysafis. “The reason why this wolf is on the move is likely looking for a mate. As far as I know there are no wolves out there for him to find. So odds are he will eventually begin moving back to Northern California and either run into a dispersing female and settle down on the way or go back to Oregon.”
He went on to explain what this movement means for wolf reintroduction in California in the coming years.
“Wolf Dispersal is crazy. Wolves are willing to travel crazy distances in search of love and territory. This highlights potential wolf habitat and future territories that could be established. OR-7, 0R-93 and OR-59 all showed us areas which they find desirable.”
He finishes by explaining how short-term wolf introduction will need to walk a tight-rope in order to be accepted by residents, especially ranchers with livestock in the area.
“Identifying shareholders and taking proactive measures should be critical to avoid livestock depredation. We have an idea of the routes that wolves will take in the future so outreach, workshops, and promoting deterrents should be the way forward to ensure coexistence. I would love to see wolves in Yosemite and in my backyard but the pickings could be hard for them and there is a lot of livestock on those hills. Ensuring that the wolves are tolerated may be the best we get but without acting it probably wont lead anywhere.”
See the full thread:
So lets talk about OR-93 shall we?ðŸ§µIf you aren’t familiar, OR-93 is a wolf collared in Oregon near Mt Hood and made it all the way to Mono County California and still shuffling around. The reason why this wolf is on the move is likely looking for a mate. Now as far as we know… pic.twitter.com/X2BAbLzbmkâ€” Petros Chrysafis (@pchrysafis) March 3, 2021
OR-93 is the 16th gray wolf documented to have dispersed into California, and most of those animals have traveled from Oregon. One of those dispersing wolves, OR-54, traveled as far south as the Lake Tahoe Basin before returning north. The others have primarily traveled, and sometimes settled, in the Californiaâ€™s northernmost counties.
Following decades of hunting wolves in the 1800â€™s, the species had disappeared from California altogether. After wolf reintroduction into Idahoâ€™s Yellowstone National Park in the 1990â€™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 itâ€™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.