California’s only gray wolf pack has been missing for almost a year, and wildlife biologists are eagerly continuing the search. These wolves, collectively called the Shasta Pack, appeared in Northern California in 2015, according to The Washington Post. This stunned environmentalists, as the species had been missing from the state since 1924.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the pack’s disappearance is also highly unusual. State biologists report that this species of wolf does not usually abandon territory once it has established its domain. Biologists first confirmed that two adults and five pups had vanished when they found an abandoned juvenile wolf in Siskiyou County in May 2016.
The wolves have not been spotted since.
“We’re reasonably confident that last year they did not use the same area as a pack as they did the year before, and we don’t know why,” Pete Figura, a senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Why they were not detected anywhere else this past summer we don’t have a clear explanation for.”
The pack could have migrated to a region with more prey, Figura said, which is a behavior that does not often happen in areas with multiple packs. Wolves usually protect their breeding grounds. He also said that the state has genetic material from each of the wolf pack members. Biologists are currently testing scat, searching for clues of the Shasta Pack’s mysterious whereabouts.
“As the first confirmed wild wolf family in California in nearly a century, the significance of (the Shasta) pack cannot be emphasized strongly enough,” Amaroq Weiss, the West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement to The San Francisco Chronicle. “The fact of no sightings of this wolf family — despite being an all-black pack and thus highly notable when spotted — is extremely troubling.”
Individuals enjoying the outdoors are encouraged to keep an eye out for the pack. With 40 million people embarking on 515 million camping trips in 2010 alone, there should be plenty of eyes on wildlife in the Golden State.
If you happen to be engaging in outdoor activity in Northern California or Oregon, and you spot a gray wolf, report the sighting to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.