SAN FRANCISCO— The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported today that a new wolf pack has established itself in southern Plumas County. Named the Beckwourth pack, the group of three wolves was first confirmed in May but not officially announced until today.
“With states like Idaho and Montana racing to slaughter their wolf populations, this is such wonderful news,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These beautiful newcomers are proving that California has great habitat for wolves, as scientists have said all along.”
Photographs of the three wolves composing the Beckwourth pack were captured on a trail camera in May. A preliminary DNA analysis shows one wolf is LAS12F, a 2-year-old female wolf born into the Lassen Pack’s 2019 litter, the department reports, but the origins of the other two wolves are not yet known.
California currently has two other existing groups of wolves: the Lassen pack, confirmed in 2017, and the Whaleback pair, which is not yet a pack, confirmed in late 2020. California’s only other known wolf pack in modern times, the Shasta pack, was confirmed in summer 2015 but disappeared a few months later.
Late spring-early summer is the time of year when the department can determine if any of these wolf families has denned, signaling the potential for pups to be born. While it is not yet known if the Beckwourth pack denned, both the Lassen pack and the Whaleback pair appear to have done so.
“This new pack is a milestone in the start of wolf recovery here,” said Weiss. “We have so few wolves that every new pack is something to celebrate.”
The first wolf in nearly a century to make California part of his range was OR-7, a radio-collared wolf from Oregon that entered California in late 2011. OR-7 traveled across seven northeastern counties in California before returning to southwestern Oregon, where he found a mate and settled down. The original breeding male of the Lassen pack was the offspring of OR-7’s first litter. He was born in Oregon but then, like his father, came to California.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is native to California but was driven to extinction in the state by the mid-1920s. After OR-7 dispersed from Oregon into California, the Center and allies successfully petitioned the state to fully protect wolves under California’s endangered species act. It is illegal to intentionally kill any wolves in the state.
While several wolves from Oregon have entered California since 2011, one particular wolf, OR-93, entered California earlier this year and traveled an astonishing distance south. This lone male wolf journeyed all the way to San Luis Obispo County, just three hours north of Los Angeles. Sadly, biologists have not received a signal from OR-93’s radio collar since April 5, and the wolf’s current status and location are unknown.