Final Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California (December 2016)
California Wolf News
Gray Wolf Sightings and Depredation Concerns
- The State of California is not reintroducing wolves.
- Gray wolves pose little direct risk to humans.
- Any wolf that enters California is protected as endangered under both the California and federal Endangered Species Acts.
- CDFW encourages the use of non-lethal methods (PDF) to avoid and/or minimize livestock losses from wolves.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is a native species that was likely extirpated from California in the 1920s, and from most of its range in the United States by the mid-1930s. A small population began naturally recolonizing northwestern Montana, reaching about 65 wolves by 1994. Then in 1995 and 1996 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced two populations of wolves, one in central Idaho, and the other in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Gray wolf populations have since expanded rapidly. At the end of 2014 Washington estimated a minimum wolf population of 68 animals, and Oregon estimated 81 as their minimum population.
In 2011 a 2½-year-old male gray wolf designated as OR7 left its pack in northeastern Oregon and, after traveling hundreds of miles, entered California in December that year. OR7’s behavior, referred to as dispersal, is typical of young adult wolves, and is the principle way that wolf populations expand into new areas.
OR7 has since returned to Oregon, found a mate, and established a pack there, but his presence in California prompted members of the public to petition the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to list the gray wolf as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). On June 4, 2014 the Commission made the finding that such listing was warranted and voted to list gray wolves under CESA. In addition, CDFW has prepared for the return of wolves to California by convening a Stakeholder Working Group to assist in the development of a California Wolf Plan.
Wolves in California
Little is known about the historic abundance and distribution of wolves in California. The human population and human development have increased dramatically since wolves last occurred here, so CDFW is uncertain about where and how many wolves will establish when they naturally recolonize the state. CDFW has encouraged and investigated numerous reports of wolf sightings by members of the public, most of which have, to date, turned out to be coyotes, dogs, or wolf-dog hybrids.
However a CDFW trail camera in Siskiyou County recorded a lone canid in May and July, 2015. Additional cameras deployed in the vicinity took multiple photos showing two adults, and five pups which appear to be a few months old. This group has been designated as the Shasta Pack by CDFW. The links above provide further information on this significant event.