Discover the New Wolf Packing Roaming in California

Mexican Gray wolf love couple

Written by Megan Martin

Updated: August 15, 2023

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As of August 11, 2023, California officially has a new resident gray wolf pack. This new pack is the southernmost pack currently. It is located in Tulare County, 200 miles away from the closest pack.

Sightings of this pack first began in July, which prompted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to begin an investigation. As a result, over the next few weeks, they collected samples of scat and hair from the areas surrounding the sightings for testing. As of now, researchers suspect that the pack contains no males. However, one of the females in the pack, who hadn’t lived in California previously, is a descendant of the first modern-day wolf in California. As you’ll learn more about below, this world first appeared in California in 2011.

Wolves are a protected species in the state of California, and this new pack is included in these protections.

Species Profile: Gray Wolf

The gray wolf is the most well-known species of wolf. For many people, this is the species that comes to mind when they first think of a wolf.

This wolf species, Canis lupus, has more than thirty different subspecies. Domestic dogs and dingos are examples of these. However, typically, when referring to these wolves, many refer only to the wild subspecies that occur naturally. This includes the British Columbia wolf (C. l. columbianus) and the Mackenzie River wolf (C. l. mackenzii).

Wild Dog Breeds: Gray Wolf

There are dozens of gray wolf subspecies, including the domestic dog.

Are Gray Wolves Native to California?

Historically, these wolves are native to California. However, they have a complicated history with the state. In the 1920s, this species was extirpated from the state of California. This means that, while this wolf could continue to be found elsewhere in the world, their California population had essentially gone extinct. Like in many other regions, this occurred mainly as a result of overhunting.

However, after nearly a century, the first of these wolves returned to California in 2011. This wolf is known as OR7.

Wolf pack

Gray wolves were extinct in California for nearly a century.

Gray Wolf Population

Globally, the gray wolf is considered to be a species of least concern. However, this is not the case for all regions. As mentioned above, this wolf is an endangered species in many areas of their natural habitat. In the entirety of their range, an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 gray wolves still roam the wilderness. At least 85 percent of these wolves are believed to live in Canada, with Alaska and Minnesota containing much of the United States population. However, as seen with this new pack in California, gray wolf populations are increasing and spreading. This is a hopeful turnaround from the late 20th century when gray wolves were considered vulnerable on a global level.

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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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