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 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.
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.