Nearly a dozen pups born to California wolf families

Lassen wolf pups in 2017. Photo: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Two of California’s three existing wolf families, the Lassen pack and the Whaleback pack, have given birth to a total of 11 pups this year, according to a quarterly report published Tuesday by the California Department of Fish and Game.

"These furry little tykes are really something to celebrate," Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statment. "Wolves were absent from California for nearly a century, so having two packs with new pups for two years in a row is a conservation milestone. This confirms what the science has said all along: California is wolf country. Wolves belong here."

The Lassen pack’s litter consist of five pups and the Whaleback pack produced at least six pups. That means the Lassen pack currently has at least 12 family members, and the Whaleback pack has at least 13.

In February, federal protections, which had been stripped from wolves nearly nationwide under the Trump administration, were restored by court order following a successful legal challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity and others. 

Though wolves remained fully protected under California’s endangered species act, state protections had been removed in neighboring Oregon, which is the primary source of wolves that come to California.

The Lassen pack, first confirmed in 2017, has had pups every year since then. 

The pack’s territory straddles Lassen and Plumas counties in Northern California. 

The Whaleback pack, which ranges throughout eastern Siskiyou County, was confirmed in late 2020 and had its first litter of pups in 2021.

 In May 2021, the Beckwourth pack was discovered in southern Plumas County but is not believed to have reproduced that year.

The Lassen pack’s breeding male and female have changed over the years, the Center for Biological Diversity noted. The current breeding male is the second the pack has known since 2017, and the current breeding female is the daughter of the original breeding female. 

The initial breeding male was a son of famous Oregon wolf OR-7, who dispersed into California in late 2011 — the first known wild wolf in the state in 87 years. 

OR-7 spent 15 consecutive months in California before returning to southwestern Oregon, where he eventually found a mate.

This story was reported in Oakland, Calif.