Wolf OR-93

For almost 100 years, there were no wolves seen in California. Following that nearly century-long absence, OR-7 was observed in late 2011—the first of multiple wolf visitors from Oregon to cross into Northern California. 

In the decade since, biologists have documented 15 additional gray wolves leaving their packs, mostly starting in Oregon, and entering California, thanks to GPS tracking collars. 

The 16th, OR-93, has made it further than any of those other wolves, getting all the way to Monterey County—and, as of the latest reading on its GPS collar, beyond.  As of April 6, OR-93's collar reading showed he had crossed Highway 101 into San Luis Obispo County. (The prior GPS collar reading, March 27, showed the wolf had crossed I-5 into San Benito County.)

OR-93's journey into California began in early February, when he was first observed in Modoc County. The young male dispersed from the White River Pack southeast of Mt. Hood in Oregon. He then moved southwest, going significantly further than other documented wolves that came from Oregon—others primarily stayed in northermost California, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

It's not uncommon for a young wolf to leave his pack in search of new territory and/or a mate, Fish and Wildlife officials report, but OR-93 has traveled a much greater distance than any of his California predecessors did. (Wolves, which are native to California, were not reintroduced by people, but reintroduced themselves.) 

Most of the wolves observed in California since 2011 came from somewhere else, but biologists have observed two packs forming in Lassen, Plumas and Siskiyou counties, with another pair in Siskiyou County that is expected to produce pups this spring. 

Gray wolves are carnivores and eat primarily large mammals like elk and deer, but also smaller mammals as well as birds and reptiles. They also sometimes scavenge carrion. 

Fish and Wildlife officials also note that wolves only rarely pose a threat to humans, and mostly fear humans and avoid them. If you have a close encounter with a wolf, do not run and maintain eye contact; make noise while retreating slowly. Wolves occasionally predate livestock. It is illegal to shoot or attempt to kill or injure a wolf. 

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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