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.