A gray wolf has recently been spotted in Ventura County, California; the furthest south, the species has been seen in the Golden State in almost a century.
Between September 20th and September 26th, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) received three separate reports of a wolf sighting in the area. Each of the reports included a description that the wolf appeared to be wearing a purple collar. Wolf tracks were also confirmed in the area where the animal was reported.
Because of the unique purple collar on the wolf, the CDFW was reportedly able to determine that the wolf matched the description of a male born into the White River pack in Northern Oregon in 2019. That wolf was affixed with a tracking collar and named OR-93 for tracking purposes.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife monitored the movements of OR-93 beginning in June of 2020, and the wolf made its way into northern California at the end of January 2021. However, on April 5th of this year, the wolf’s collar reportedly stopped transmitting a signal. By that point, the wolf had traveled more than 900 miles from where it was collared.
The wolf kept moving southbound, though. In May, trail camera photos were taken that appeared to show a wolf in Southwest California. The images were submitted to the CDFW for further evaluation in August.
Wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list in January of 2021. However, the species is still listed under the California state endangered species list.
Though originally native to California, wolves were extirpated from the state in the 1920s and the last wolf documented as far south as OR-93 was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922.
Data collected from the wolf’s tracking collar before it stopped working really puts the animal’s incredible journey into perspective. The wolf traveled an average of 16 miles per day through California and passed through 16 different counties. The wolf also successfully navigated his way across two major roadways, Highway 99 and Interstate 5.
A spokesman for CDFW told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the wolf seems to b steering clear of areas highly inhabited by people.
“For the most part, he’s been staying away from any kind of city centers.
If this wolf is in Ventura County, you’re starting to get closer into the Santa Barbara area. But this is the northern part of the county. It’s very rural. It’s not like he’s at the beach with a whole bunch of people or anything like that.”
Reports indicate that this could be one of the longest journeys undertaken by a wolf in more than a century. It’s somewhat common for young wolves, especially males, to leave their home packs to find a mate or new hunting grounds, and while they often travel long distances, making a trek more than 1,000 miles is extraordinary.
The CDFW has plans to trap OR-93, not to relocate the wolf, but to put an updated tracking collar on the wolf so its movements can start being monitored again. However, without additional evidence of the wolf’s whereabouts, doing so is not necessarily feasible.
This is not the only wild wolf in California though, there are 3 separate Wolfpack’s in the northern part of the state that can all be linked back to one of the 23 wolf packs that reside in Oregon.