The California Department of Fish and Wildlife released remote video this week capturing new pups from what media is reporting as the only known wolf pack in the state. And they’re pretty adorable. They can be heard howling, trying to be big dogs around the one-minute mark of the vid. The pack is located in Lassen County, which is about two and a half hours north of Lake Tahoe along the state’s eastern border with Nevada.
This isn’t the first pack to re-establish itself in California after the gray wolf was driven to near extinction in the West (they were generally thought to be eradicated when the 1973 Endangered Species Act was ennacted). In 2015 there were reports of a “Shasta Pack” in Northern California’s Siskiyou County. But the CDFW has mysteriously lost track of that family of seven black animals. Not one of the wolves has shown up on observation cameras in years, baffling wildlife officials who fear they may have been poached after they were caught on camera feeding on a cow. The Lassen pack reportedly appeared in that county around 2016, when a pair of wolves showed up from other Western states.
Wolf reintroduction has seen no shortage of controversy after a group of animals from Canada was given a new home in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness in 1995. Those wolves have flourished and with the population expanding rapidly over the next 25 years, the state has since removed them from the endangered list and opened up a regulated hunting season to control the animals. Those wolves have presumably migrated to other states, flourishing in the still-open expanse of the American West.
Opponents of the reintroduction in Idaho (and more recently, of the animals being protected federally) generally come from the land-use side of the spectrum, with ranchers and elk-hunting outfitters mostly in opposition fearing wolves would decimate both domestic and wild game. There was an interesting study released this week by the Idaho Fish and Game Department, however, finding that mountain lions actually killed more elk in Idaho’s backcountry than anything else and that calf survival rate was most connected to “food availability and winter severity.” Signs that in a larger sense point to wolves being a healthy part of the eco-system.