Over the course of nearly a week in late September, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) received three separate reports of a gray wolf with a purple collar in northern Ventura County. CDFW staff began site inspections and have confirmed recent wolf tracks in the vicinity.
Though CDFW does not have forensic evidence to confirm this at this time, the wolf could be OR-93. The recent reports match the description of OR-93, who was fitted with a purple tracking collar by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon in June 2020. The collar was monitored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), but it stopped transmitting in April.
Neither CDFW nor ODFW can determine the wolf’s current location, but if an opportunity arises, CDFW may attempt to capture and re-collar the wolf to continue tracking its journey. Though historically all of California is wolf habitat, this is the farthest south in California that any gray wolf has been documented since one was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922.
OR-93 is a male wolf born in 2019. He dispersed from the White River pack in northern Oregon. When his collar was providing information, he was tracked entering Modoc County on Jan. 30, 2021. After briefly returning to Oregon, he reentered Modoc County on Feb. 4. On Feb. 24, he entered Alpine County after passing through portions of Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras counties. On Feb. 25, he entered Mono County. In mid-March, he was in western Tuolumne County. By late March he was in Fresno County, and then entered San Benito County after crossing Highway 99 and Interstate 5. He was in Monterey County on April 1 and his last collar transmission was from San Luis Obispo County on April 5. Through April 5 he had traveled at least 935 air miles in California, a minimum average of 16 air miles per day.
In August, CDFW received trail camera video from May 15, 2021 showing a collared gray wolf in southwest Kern County that may have been OR-93. The trail camera records wildlife use at a water trough on private property. Though the video was from May, the trail camera was not checked until August, when it was provided to CDFW.
CDFW strongly encourages the public to be aware that the wolf population continues to grow in California and to know the difference between wolves and coyotes. Though gray wolves are generally much bigger than coyotes, they can sometimes be misidentified.
Gray wolves are listed as endangered pursuant to California’s Endangered Species Act (CESA). It is unlawful to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap or capture gray wolves. Anyone who believes they have seen a wolf in California can report it to CDFW online.
Gray wolves pose very little safety risk to humans. CDFW is working to monitor and conserve California’s small wolf population and is collaborating with livestock producers and diverse stakeholders to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts.
Gray wolf management in California is guided by CESA as well as CDFW’s Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California, finalized in 2016. More information is available on CDFW’s wolf page.