Porterville, CA., September 15, 2023 – California’s gray wolf population vanished in the early 1900s during a nationwide eradication effort. In the 2000s, a handful made their way from Canada into Oregon, and in 2011, OR-7 (an adult male), who was part of the northeastern Oregon Imnaha pack, crossed the border into California.
Since then, the Golden State has become home to seven known established wolf packs: Whaleback Pack, Lassen Pack, Beckwourth Pack, and unnamed packs in Lassen, Plumas, Tehama, and Tulare counties. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced the sighting of the new Tulare County wolf pack in August.
According to a CDFW investigation, the southernmost wolf pack in Tulare County includes an adult female and four offspring (two males and two females). CDFW performed a DNA analysis indicating that the adult female is a direct descendant of OR-7. The four Tulare offspring also have a genetic link to the Lassen pack.
Wolves travel large distances, up to 12 miles in a single day. “The pack has been sited mostly in the Giant Sequoia National Monument,” stated Forest Supervisor Teresa Benson. “The Giant Sequoia National Monument covers over 300,000 acres within Tulare County, 2500 to 9700-foot elevations, and a diverse ecosystem offering the pack abundant room to roam.”
The Sequoia National Forest is actively engaged in fuels reduction projects and ecological restoration throughout the forest. These projects focus on reducing the probability of massive wildfires that could negatively impact sequoia groves, injuring or killing giant sequoias.
How the wolves affect ecosystems and predator/prey dynamics in the Giant Sequoia National Monument is unknown. Ultimately, if the wolves stay in the area and establish a population, they may affect prey behavior, which may impact plant growth. Federal and state agencies will monitor the wolves and work with wolf biologists to apply management protection and consideration for this endangered species.
Similar to bears and mountain lions, wolves pose a potential threat to livestock, such as cattle permitted to graze in the forest. Where the wolf pack roams consist of a mosaic of vegetation types with openings and areas of thick cover, in and around recent wildfire footprints. These areas are large and have roads, human settlements, and adequate water.
An abundance of prey, such as rabbits, squirrels, birds, mice, voles, and mule deer, are available. Livestock loss due to wolf attack is known to occur, though this is uncommon. In the event of depredation, State wolf recovery provisions pay full market value to every rancher verified to have lost livestock in wolf attacks. Visit CDFW Wolf Livestock Compensation Grants (ca.gov) for more information.
Wolves in California are protected under the California Endangered Species Act. It is prohibited to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill wolves in the state. Learn more at Threatened and Endangered Species (ca.gov).