In 1924, the last Gray wolf in California was killed by a trapper, marking a sad end for a species long embroiled in conflict with humans in the western United States. But now, following years of dedication on the part of conservationists to reintroduce the animals to their native habitats, things are looking up as a single, adventuresome wolf has entered back into the Golden State -- the first of its kind to be seen there in nearly 80 years.
Researchers have been tracking the lone, wild wolf, dubbed OR7, via a GPS-enabled collar since he departed from his pack's stomping grounds in northern Oregon last month. In just a matter of weeks, the juvenile male walked some 730 miles to the state's border with California. From some, idea in the cattle ranching community, the prospect of gray wolves returning was regrettable news, though for others it marked a welcome comeback.
"Whether one is for it or against it, the entry of this lone wolf into California is an historic event," says Charlton Bonham of the Department of Fish and Game to the Sacramento Bee.
Since wolves were first reintroduced to Yellowstone Park in the mid-1990s, biologists have been awaiting their eventual return to regions, like in California, where they had been previously eliminated.
The fish and game department expects other wolves to arrive in California at some point as part of a slow wolf migration linked to the 1995 introduction of a Canadian gray wolf pack to Idaho and areas around Yellowstone National Park. Wolves first re-entered Oregon in 1999.
Multiple wolves in California could lead to new packs becoming established, or they could simply wander on.
"If the gray wolf does establish a population in California, there will be much more work to do here," Bonham said.