The only known wild gray wolf pack in California has grown by at least three adorable new members.
The pups were born to a mother in the Lassen Pack ― which lives in an area spanning Lassen and Plumas counties ― in April, according to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife report cited by multiple news outlets this week. The three small canines were also spotted on a trail camera in mid-June.
With the three new pups, the estimated total number of the small pack is up to seven. However, the report also suggested that it’s possible there are more, noting that “a minimum of three pups have been detected.”
“This pack has been on the landscape in California since 2016,” Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Kent Laudon told The Mercury News. “They had their first litter in 2017. Generally you would expect pups every year, so long as the adults stay healthy. They are acting like regular wolves.”
Ranchers and farmers eradicated wolves in California in the 1920s. However, there’s been some known wolf presence in the state since 2011, when a radio-collared wolf from Oregon crossed state lines, according to the News. Members of the Lassen Pack are believed to have descended from that wolf, which is known as OR-7.
Today, known wild gray wolves in California include the Lassen Pack and three apparent lone wolves, according to the report.
A previously known pack, dubbed the Shasta Pack, had been periodically spotted in the state beginning in 2014. However, there’s been no sign of that group of wolves since 2016.
Conservationists see the slowly blossoming wolf population as a good thing.
“Having wolves return to California is one of the most significant environmental developments in conservation in this state,” Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity told local news outlet KQED.