SACRAMENTO, Calif.— State wildlife agency officials announced late Monday that OR-93, a radio-collared wolf from Oregon who first entered California on Jan. 30, has now made it all the way south into Fresno County.
“OR-93 is blowing out all the records for the farthest south a wolf has traveled into California in modern times,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is truly historic for California, but also demonstrates that wolves naturally travel long distances. If protections are in place to allow them to do so, there’s real hope for their future here.”
OR-93, a nearly two-year-old male wolf from Oregon, was fitted with a radio collar last June near where he was born, south of Mt. Hood in Oregon. He left his pack and headed south, arriving in Modoc County, California in late January. He has continued traveling swiftly, moving through Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Mono, Tuolomne, Mariposa, Merced, Madera and now Fresno county.
OR-93’s birth pack, the White River pack, is one of only three wolf families established so far in western Oregon. Most of Oregon’s wolf packs occupy the eastern portion of the state. OR-93 is the first wolf from the White River pack confirmed to have traveled into California.
“We think OR-93 is in search of a mate, but even if he doesn’t find one this year, we sure hope he sticks around,” Weiss said. “He adds genetic diversity to our tiny wolf population and a very Californian flair for outdoor adventure.”
Fewer than a dozen known wolves now live in California, including the Lassen pack, which consists of five confirmed wolves; a new pair spotted in Siskiyou County late last year; and OR-93. The Lassen pack was confirmed in 2017 and ranges through Lassen and Plumas counties.
The seven-member, all-black Shasta pack, the state’s first in nearly 100 years, disappeared from Siskiyou County within months after its discovery in 2015, following the pack’s implications in two livestock casualties and amid fears of poaching.
California’s wolves were wiped out in the early 1900s by a nationwide, government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Wolves began to return to Oregon and Washington in the 2000s, and in 2011 a wolf from Oregon made his way into California. Since then more wolves have roamed into the state from Oregon and elsewhere.
According to state wildlife officials, 16 other wolves have ventured into California, almost all from Oregon. They include OR-7, who dispersed there in 2011 and was the first wild wolf confirmed in the state in 87 years.
OR-7 later returned to Oregon, but several of his offspring also traveled to California, including a son who founded the Lassen pack and a daughter, OR-54, who traveled as far south as Sierra and Nevada counties in the Lake Tahoe Basin before, tragically, being found dead in Shasta County just over a year ago.
Gray wolves are protected as an endangered species under state law and cannot be killed unless in defense of human life. Federal protections for wolves were recently ended by the Trump administration, but lawsuits have been filed by the Center and allies challenging this premature and unscientific delisting.