SAN FRANCISCO— The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has reported that a subadult male member of the state’s only known wolf family, the Lassen pack, has dispersed into Oregon. This is the first confirmed instance of a wolf born in California dispersing to Oregon.
Designated as LAS13M when he was captured and radio-collared in California last spring, he traveled into Oregon in early October and has so far remained there, where he joins its population of around 160 wolves.
“Ordinarily we’d be celebrating the news that California wolves are traveling into other states, because that helps expand a healthy gene pool,” said Amaroq Weiss, a senior West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But wolf recovery still has a long way to go in the Golden State, and the impending loss of federal protection will pose grave challenges to the future of wolves throughout the West.”
In 2019 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to strip federal protection from wolves in the lower 48 states and is expected to finalize that rule this week. California’s wolves remain protected under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
The Lassen pack was first confirmed in 2017 and had four pups that year, five in 2018 and four in 2019. Not all the pups have survived, and some have left the pack. Wolves tend to stay with their birth pack for the first few years of their lives before dispersing to seek mates and new territory.
This summer the wildlife agency reported that the pack produced one litter this year, consisting of eight pups. Subsequent trail camera images, visual observation by agency staff, and genetic testing of the scat from the pups, however, revealed two separate litters with a total of at least nine pups combined. The original breeding female of the pack, LAS01F, had at least five pups and her two-year-old subadult daughter LAS09F gave birth to at least four pups.
The genetic analysis also confirmed that the father of both litters is the new adult male who joined the pack last year after the original breeding male disappeared. The new breeding male is not related to either of the females, the likely reason he mated with them both.
“Nine years after the first wild wolf walked into California, we still have only one pack in the state, so it’s thrilling to learn of so many new pups,” said Weiss.
The Lassen pack is only California’s second confirmed pack in nearly 100 years. The Shasta pack, a family of seven wolves, was confirmed in 2015 but by 2016 had mysteriously disappeared.