A gray wolf is making major headlines after it made the long trek across the Oregon border and all the way down to Mono County, California. It’s the furthest south into California that wildlife officials have tracked a wolf.
The young male wolf, known as 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 this week 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.
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 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.