Trail Camera Spots 2nd Gray Wolf in California

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The second wolf to enter California in four years appears on a trail camera.  Photo source: California Department of Fish & Wildlife

California state wildlife officials have evidence that a wild gray wolf may be roaming Siskiyou County, the second wolf to visit the state in the last four years.  California has not had a wild wolf population since the early 1900s.

After receiving reports earlier this year of possible sightings of a large dark canid, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife set up a number of remote trail cameras in the southeastern area of the county.  In May 2015, one camera captured an image of something which resembled a wolf, but an examination of feces found in the area proved inconclusive.

In June, biologists studying deer at a separate location found a track which appeared to have been made by a wolf, and placed another trail camera.  On July 24, biologists downloaded photos from that camera which featured a large, wolf-like canid.  The animal in the images appears to be a gray wolf.  The biologists do not believe there is more than one wolf in the area at this time.

The route taken by OR-7 on his way from Oregon into California.  Image source: biologicaldiversity.org

The route taken by OR-7 on his way from Oregon into California. Image source: biologicaldiversity.org

The sighting comes a little more than a year after OR-7 sparked excitement by wandering briefly thorough the same area of California.  OR-7 was first detected in California in December 2011.  A wild wolf wearing a tracking collar, OR-7 originally dispersed from a pack in Oregon.  He then moved between California and Oregon for three years before taking a territory, and a mate, in Oregon.  He is now the breeding male of the Rogue Pack, the first wolf pack in western Oregon.  OR-7’s forays into California marked the first time in 90 years a wolf was known to be living in the wild in the Golden State.

OR-7 on May 3, 2014. Photo source: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

OR-7 on May 3, 2014. Photo source: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The new wolf captured on camera is definitely not OR-7.  OR-7 is a gray-phase gray wolf (with typical, agouti fur) and the new wolf is a black-phase gray wolf, with black fur.  (Fur color in wolves is like hair color in humans: it’s just a color.)  Since the new wolf is not wearing a tracking collar, the state has to rely on trail cameras, scat and tracks to follow the animal’s travels.  The new wolf likely, like OR-7, dispersed from a pack in Oregon.  Only time will tell if it chooses to settle in California, or returns to its home state.

Wolves were placed on California’s endangered species list just last year. The state is close to releasing a draft wolf management plan for public comment.

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