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By Matt Brannon and Jessica Skropanic – Redding Record Searchlight
The Lassen Wolf Pack, believed to be the only known wolf family remaining in California, gave birth to a new litter of pups for the fourth year in a row in 2020.
The new litter has at least eight pups, bringing the pack’s total 14 members. Others in the pack include a mother, father and four “subadult wolves” from the pack’s prior litters.
“These little ones give hope to everyone who wants to see wolves reestablished in the places these beautiful animals once called home,” said Amaroq Weiss, a senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity who made the announcement Monday.
The pups’ father joined the pack recently after the pack’s first breeding male disappeared last summer, according to the center. The original pack father was a gray-colored wolf that hasn’t been seen since June 2019.
The Lassen pack roams a large area of western Lassen and northern Plumas counties, California Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist Kent Laudon said.
As of last fall, the pack had a breeding female, a subadult wolf from the 2018 litter and four pups from the 2019 litter. The female was seen earlier this year with a black male wolf, according to the center.
Of this year’s eight pups, at least four are males and two are females, genetic testing shows. Testing established that the black adult male wolf is the father of this latest litter. Experts are trying to determine his pack of origin, according to the center.
Prior to 2011, gray wolves were eradicated in California, the last dying in 1924 in Lassen County. No gray wolves were confirmed in the state until Oregon wolf OR-7 crossed into California in December 2011.
The Lassen pack is California’s second confirmed group since 2011, according to the center. The Shasta pack, a family of seven, was confirmed in 2015 but by 2016 had “mysteriously disappeared.”
The Lassen pack was first confirmed in 2017. It had four pups that year, five in 2018 and four in 2019.
“Not all the pups have survived, and some have left the pack,” read a news release from the center. “Wolves tend to stay with their birth pack the first few years of their lives before dispersing to seek mates and their own territory.”
The gray wolf is an endangered species and is protected under federal and state law. For more information on the Lassen pack and other wolves in California, go to the CDFW’s gray wolf updates page at https://bit.ly/2fgi9Yc.
Lassen pack history
- August 2015: Trail cameras first photographed the pack’s adult female (LAS01F).
- February 2016, biologists identified two sets of tracks in what appeared to be two wolves traveling together.
- 2016: A wolf couple was spotted together in summer and autumn. Genetic testing indicated the male wolf (CA08M) of the pair was related to Oregon’s Rogue Pack. The female was likely descended from the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population; she had half-siblings in the Wyoming wolf population.
- 2017: LAS01F whelped at least four pups, three of whom were known to be alive in March 2018.
- June 2017: CDFW officials successfully radio collared LAS01F.
- April 2018: LAS01F had another litter of at least five pups. At that time the pack included at least two yearlings from the 2017 litter.
- September 2018: The body of an uncollared female yearling wolf was found in Lassen County. Advanced decay made the cause of death mystery.
- June 2019: CDFW staff posted video of a radio-collared female adult, a yearling and three pups in the woods in Lassen County. CDFW officials confirmed the YouTube video was of the Lassen Pack’s April 2018 litter.
- Mid-April 2019: The pack’s third litter of pups was born. The last sighting of he pack’s original breeding male is recorded.
- June 2019: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife posts video — time stamped June 16 — of a radio-collared female adult, a yearling and three pups in the woods in Lassen County. CDFW officials confirm the YouTube video is of the Lassen Pack’s April litter.
- June 2019: Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services spend nine days attempting to place radio collars on Lassen pack members but are unable to trap them.
- September 2019: The CDFW reports a female pup was fitted with a radio collar. That collar stopped working in winter 2020.
- Spring 2020: Reports come in of a black male wolf, later confirmed to be unrelated to other known California wolves. His status as new breeding male are confirmed by the CDFW.
Field observations and trail cameras confirm a new litter of eight pups. Genetic identification and observation confirms four of the pups are males and two are female.
- June 2020: The pack includes a minimum of six adults and yearlings.
A yearling male (LAS03M) and LAS01F are fitted with radio collars.