The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has just revealed the shocking discovery of a new gray wolf pack in Tulare County. The wolf pack, currently without a name, provides a new wrinkle in California’s growing gray wolf population.
This newly identified pack marks the southernmost presence of these majestic creatures in California and stands more than 200 miles away from the nearest known pack residing in the northeastern part of the state.
The revelation comes after CDFW received a wolf sighting report from within the Sequoia National Forest this July. Acting swiftly, CDFW launched an investigation at the reported location, revealing tangible evidence of wolf activity, including tracks and other indicative signs. Determined to uncover more, the team collected a series of 12 scat and hair samples from the immediate vicinity for comprehensive genetic testing.
Employing advanced DNA analysis techniques, CDFW’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory embarked on identifying not only if the samples belonged to wolves but also their gender, coat color, individual identity, their relationship with each other, and most intriguingly, their pack origin. In a remarkable affirmation, all 12 samples were confirmed to belong to the gray wolf species.
This newly discovered pack comprises a group of at least five individuals who have never before been documented in California. Among them is an adult female, who carries a direct lineage to California’s historic first documented wolf, known as OR7, and four offspring (two females and two males). The genetic makeup of the offspring further points to their connection with the Lassen Pack’s lineage, underscoring the intricate web of wolf heritage that California now houses.
Gray wolves are a native species to California, but their presence had been eradicated from the state by the 1920s. The tide of change began in late 2011 when OR7 famously ventured across state borders, becoming the first wolf in nearly a century to reestablish its range in California before heading back to Oregon, where it went on to form the renowned Rogue Pack.
Wolves enjoy protection under California’s Endangered Species Act and are also federally safeguarded under the federal Endangered Species Act. This legal shield ensures their safety, making it unlawful to intentionally harm or kill these magnificent creatures within the state’s boundaries.