Remember OR7 — lovingly dubbed Journey by school children — the wild wolf who scoured Northeastern California in 2011 on an unsuccessful search for mate?
Well, according to an announcement last week by the California Department of Fish and Game, a female descendant of OR7 and a probably male wolf from the Lassen Pack have created a new gray wolf pack in Tulare County in Central California.
This is the Golden State’s southernmost pack and it is at least 200 air miles from the nearest known pack in northeastern California.
How was the new pack discovered?
In July, CDFW received a wolf sighting report from a location in the Sequoia National Forest.
CDFW investigated the reported location, found wolf tracks and other signs of wolf presence and collected 12 scat and hair samples from the immediate area for genetic testing. CDFW’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory performed DNA analysis to determine if the samples were from wolves, as well as sex, coat color, individual identity, relation to one another and pack origin.
All 12 samples were confirmed gray wolf. The new pack consists of at least five individuals not previously detected in California, including one adult female, who is a direct descendant of OR7 and four offspring (two females, two males).
None of the samples collected came from an adult male, however the genetic profile from the offspring indicate the breeding male is a descendant of the Lassen Pack.
Gray wolves are native to California but were extirpated in the state by the 1920s. In late 2011, OR7 crossed the state line to become the first wolf in nearly a century to make California part of his range before returning to Oregon to form the Rogue Pack.
Wolves are protected under California’s Endangered Species Act and are federally protected in California under the federal Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to intentionally kill or harm wolves in the state. For more information and to report potential sightings, visit CDFW’s Gray Wolf Program webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Gray-Wolf.
A trail cam in Tulare County captured this image of a wolf in Central California. Photos by Michelle Harris, Samantha Winiecki-Love, Ryan Slezak and Colibri Ecological Consulting.
A human hand is often used to establish the size of a wolf print. Footprints from dogs are not generally this large.
Using scat, researchers are able to obtain a great deal of information regarding the animal that left it.