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Are Gray Wolves About To Return To California?
Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2014 by eNature
Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf
Wolf pack surrounding bison in Yellowstone Nat'l Park
Wolf pack surrounding bison in Yellowstone Nat'l Park
The wolf's range in North American as of 2010. Note that small populations such as Oregon's wolves are not included.
The wolf's range in North American as of 2010. Note that small populations such as Oregon's wolves are not included.
Approximate route of OR-7 between September 2011 and March 2012 showing his entry into Northern California.
Approximate route of OR-7 between September 2011 and March 2012 showing his entry into Northern California.
© Finetooth

Wolves were once common along much of the West Coast, ranging from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state through Oregon to Southern California.

Decades of hunting and other extermination programs, many intended to protect livestock, drove wolves out of West Coast states in the early 1900’s. Until recently, the last wild wolf in California was recorded in 1924, when it was shot in Lassen County. Those in Washington were eliminated in the 1930’s and in Oregon in 1946, where the last wolf was killed for a bounty.

In the wake of successful wolf recovery efforts in the northern Rocky Mountains and near the Great Lakes, the animals have begun to return to their traditional ranges on the West Coast, with viable populations now established in Washington and Oregon, and recent signs of wolves in Northern California.

Reliable reports of wolves returning to Washington arose in 2005. The state now has five wolf packs in central and eastern portions of the state, made up of three breeding pairs and at least 27 individuals.  Naturalists have identified several additional wild areas in Washington that wolves could occupy, particularly on the Olympic Peninsula.

Wolves began returning to Oregon in 1999, and the first pack, the Imnaha, was first observed in 2008. Four confirmed packs are now in eastern Oregon, made up of one breeding pair and at least 29 wolves. 

And there’s room for more wolves in the state. Naturalists have identified several other wild areas in Oregon that wolves could occupy, including extensive habitat in the Cascade and Siskiyou Mountains.

After an 85 year absence, a gray wolf was observed in California in December 2011. The 2 ½-year-old male, known as OR-7 or Journey, had traveled more than 700 miles from the northeastern corner of Oregon, arriving in California’s Siskiyou County. 

Journey could be the first of many California wolves.  Wolves were once common in in most areas of the state and there is plenty of sparsely populated potential wolf habitat in Northern California and the Sierra Nevada.

And there’s a lot more to Journey’s story since we first posted it in 2012.

This last May a remote camera in the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest, near the California-Oregon border, captured photographs of Journey along with a female wolf who appeared to be traveling with him. Wildlife biologists believed the wolves had paired and mated.  And if the pair had cubs, the wolves would be the first known to have bred in the Oregon Cascades in a century.

Then on June 2, biologists found and photographed twowolf pups they believed to have been sired by Journey.  They took fecal samples for DNA testing in order to make decisive confirmation, the results of which are still pending.

The birth of these wolf pups so close to the California border makes it quite likely that wolves will return on a long-term basis to the state. Anticipating such an occurrence, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 on June 3, 2014 to protect wolves that may find themselves in California under the state Endangered Species Act. 

So we’ll see what happens over the next few years. 

For now, wildlife biologists, who originally had not planned to replace OR-7’s tracking collar when its three-year batteries finally died, have decided to replace the collar in order to keep track of what they hope may be a new pack of wolves.  And it’s pretty clear that Journey’s journey, and that of his offspring, is far from over.

Wolf Recovery Is Generally Good News For Ecosystems
The return of wolves is good news for the ecosystems that they repopulate, since wolves and other predators play a vital role in regulating populations of prey species such as deer and elk.  And regulating those populations benefits a number of other species.

For instance, wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park has made elk herds more mobile.  This increased mobility as reduced the elks’ consumption of stream-side vegetation, which has significantly benefited beaver and songbird populations.

As for people, wolf reintroduction and recovery continues to be somewhat controversial.  But it seems that QR-7 and his peers aren’t too concerned about our policies and politics— they just want a great place to live.

Sort of like all those humans who have migrated to California!


More detail on the wanderings of OR-7, the wolf known as Journey »



Why don’t you send the praises of the wolf to the govenor that is killing them.It is sickening to here of their slaughter there and the fact that they killed the alpha female of the blueberry pack.

Posted by cal on 9/12

how long before the wolf haters show up

Posted by emily on 9/12

I don’t think the haters are into the enature blog. (excuse my spelling in the first post. My hand got ahead of my brain)

Posted by cal on 9/12

I would love to see the wolves return to their native habitat. They still have to overcome a lot of prejudice, however, with livestock owners who are convinced they kill thousands of calves and lambs—even against all actual statistics.

Posted by Pat Nipper on 9/13

The problem with livestock owners is their fears cause them to lure and poison or shoot wolves
without a second thought. They are also the ones that need to learn the true benefits of wolves in the wild. The wolves ability to eliminate unhealthy animals in the wild actually makes for healthier evironments for livestock.

Posted by cal on 9/13

There were valid reasons for posting bounties on them. Say good-bye to the livestock, and any huntable deer and elk herds. The deer and elk herds in Idaho and Montana have been drastically depleted in the areas that have the non-native species of wolf introduced into them.

Posted by Kevin on 9/14

If a lie is repeated long enough, it becomes a truth. Democrats are good at that. If a deer or elk is healthy, a wolves can’t take it down very easily. Ones that fall to wolves would of likely not lasted very long period. They actually increase the health of the herds by leaving the healthy one to multiply. Survival of the fittest. The herds have not been depleted, they are moving more and you’d just have to look harder. They are doing what they would have normally done without the hunters keeping them in areas with deer feeders and salt licks. What was done in Idaho was a wolf slaughter that hasn’t stopped.
FYI, If you love your dog, you love a wolf. If sick herds are being taken by wolves, livestock are less likely to aquire what was affecting them…anthrax being one of them. Another thing, wolves will generally stay away from men and their property as they don’t trust them. If they are losing live stock. Look at mountain lions and coyotes as they are most likely the culprits.

Posted by cal on 9/14

You are partially correct cal. The lie that seems to be accepted as truth is that the wolves only prey upon the sick and weak animals. The unfortunate truth is that the weak animals are mostly the fawns and calves needed to sustain the herd’s future generations. I have hunted these states for decades and have personally witnessed the decline in game populations.

Posted by kevin on 9/14

Sorry but you are wrong. A wolf has to sustain a pack. They will scout a herd trying to seperate the one that will go the easiest. Generally the old ones are the weak and sickly and the easiest to take down. Yes they will occassionally take down a fawn but only if the mother is careless. As far a livestock is concerned, the only ones that go after calves are coyotes. They are found in every state, aren’t afraid of man, and are found in every state. They will kill a pet in yor backyard. Your decline in wild herds is not by the wolves but by the fact that they are not staying still as they did in prior years. There is also more developement that is occurring in those states that pushes them further.
Believe me as I live for the outdoors, wolves get a bad rap. As for the anthrax and hoof and mouth I stated earlier, it hit your elk herds through to Yellowstone’s bison real bad a few years ago taking out quite a lot of them. Many having to be destroyed by man.

Posted by cal on 9/14
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