Wolf News: Potential evidence of at least one additional wild wolf in northern California

June 2016

Photographic evidence from trail cameras in western Lassen County suggests at least one additional gray wolf is roaming northern California. Based on coat color, this animal is not a member of the Shasta Pack, the breeding pair and pups detected in eastern Siskiyou County in 2015. And unlike OR-25, a transient wolf from Oregon that has recently visited California on several occasions, this animal is not wearing a tracking collar.

A wolf-like canid was first photographed by a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) trail camera in Lassen County in August 2015. What appeared to be the same animal was then photographed at another trail camera a few miles away in October. Based on the elapsed time between the photographs and the behavior and appearance of the animal, CDFW biologists believed it was most likely a wolf. However, they could not rule out the possibility the animal was a domestic dog or wolf-dog hybrid. A hair sample collected at the October detection site and analyzed by the University of Idaho’s Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary, and Conservation Genetics was likewise inconclusive – the DNA extracted from the sample was of poor quality and was not sufficient to discern between wolf, dog, or wolf-dog hybrid (all of which are genetically very similar).

In 2016, a wolf-like canid was photographed in western Lassen County at a third CDFW trail camera in March and a separate trail camera in May. The size and coat patterns of the animal suggest it is likely the same animal photographed approximately 10-15 miles away in 2015. These recent detections provide additional evidence that the animal is probably a wild wolf, as the likelihood of a domestic dog or a wolf-dog hybrid persisting in the undeveloped area through a normal winter seems remote. CDFW will continue to maintain trail cameras and search for scat, hair, and other samples that could potentially allow an unequivocal genetic identification of the animal.