Gray Wolf Makes History With Incredible California Journey

On June 8, a gray wolf visited Nevada County, California, the first known sighting of a wolf in the area since the early 1900s.

Known as OR-54 because she is the 54th wolf Oregon biologists have radio collared, she is believed to be the offspring of OR-7, a wolf that made history in December 2011 when he became the first known wolf to cross from Oregon to California in almost 90 years.

Dubbed “a traveling maniac” by Kent Laudon, a wolf expert with the California Department of Fish and Game, OR-54 was spotted almost 300 miles from the Oregon border near Boreal, a popular ski area, and the I-80, a very noisy throughway and an area much further south than she has ever been spotted in before. 

I’m especially thrilled because this is one of my favorite places to ski, so I feel blessed to have been near a wolf location!

Laudon used this description because OR-54 first entered California’s eastern Siskiyou County from Oregon on January 3, and spent 28 days in California exploring counties north of Nevada County, before returning to Oregon on February 18. In mid-April she returned, and Laudon estimates the grey wolf has covered at least 506 miles in the state.

But this is the first time she has been spotted so far south.

“What tremendously exciting news for wolves in California,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This wolf who followed her famous father’s footsteps into California is now making history of her own, exploring beyond where he traveled into great wolf habitat in the Sierras.”


Photo Credit: Screenshot from YouTube video

Wolves used to roam throughout California, (as well as the rest of the U.S.), but were eradicated by humans almost a century ago. With the arrival of OR-7 (seen above) in California in 2011 came the hope that more wolves would return to the state.

In 2012, citing possible threats from hunters and ranchers, the Center for Biological Diversity, along with other conservation groups, filed a petition  asking California’s Fish and Game Commission to protect the gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act.

They succeeded and now it is illegal to harm, harass or kill gray wolves in California.

Commission president Michael Sutton was delighted: “There is no more iconic animal in the American West than this one,” he stated. “We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them recolonize their historic range in our state.”

Wolves are slowly returning. OR-7 went back to southern Oregon, where he and a female wolf created what’s known as the Rogue Pack, raising several litters since 2014.

As Care2’s Alicia Graef reported, wolves believed to be from those litters have been found in the northeastern part of California. And now OR-54 is making her mark in an area much further south.

Though known as gray wolves, the wolves actually range in color from gray to black to white. They are important to maintaining healthy ecosystems: They play a key role in controlling deer and elk populations, which in turn can help other animal and plant species. In addition, they are scavengers, sniffing out and eating dead animals.

Thanks to the Yellowstone Re-Wilding Project, I was lucky enough to come face-to-face with a wolf in the Park several years ago. It was twilight so I’m not sure what color the animal was; we simply stared at each other for perhaps 30 seconds and then the wolf turned around and ran away. It was a magic moment.

Whether OR-54 just loves being out on her own, is looking for a mate or is driven by hunger, we don’t know. Whatever the reason, it’s fantastic news that gray wolves are returning to California.


Photo Credit: Thinkstock.


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer H
Jennifer H8 months ago

Great news yet too much news. For one, I don't trust Dept of F&G and 2) - any of the ranchers can track her just as easily.

Ruth S
Ruth S8 months ago


Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx8 months ago

However, what happens if a rancher or a poacher is caught while shooting her or another gray wolf ? Are there jail sentences and fines foreseen ? How much ?? I hope that extra patrols will keep an eye on her and protect her !
She is radio collared OR54, as the 54th wolf that has been collared as being offspring of OR7. I can not see such collar, as she has such thick fur, but when she has a litter I hope the cubs will also be radio collared so they can follow up this family. for ddecades to come. May be she will be shot and all the puppies taken away to sell on the black market. Would we be surprised ?? OH NO !! Therefore, I beg you to take all precautions needed to follow poachers and ranchers on a 24/7 basis, and that this wonderful story does NOT END BEFORE IT REALLY COMMENCED. Everyone that should endanger her or her cubs, should face a jail sentence of several years, and in addition a huge fine, so that his salary / wages would just suffice to stay alive, and hire a micro-flat, but without any fantasies or unnecessary luxury!!
No compassion for these magnificent animals means NO compassion AT ALL for such disgusting perpetrators !!

Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx8 months ago

This article gives me some hope that, when we work ALL TOGETHER, we are able to undo a lot of wrong things we did in the past. Either because it was out of greed, or because we were unaware of the consequences. But now on the 8th of June, the Gray wolf was seen to be back in the Nevada Country, where he was last seen early 1900's. Animals and plants can "revive" as long as we do not interfere anymore with killing some species, and introducing foreign species, who create large changement or even the disappearance of certain plants and animals. The ecosystem is in such delicate balance that even the disappearance of one single species can have enormous changement, we had never foreseen. We CAN only intervene in case nature is in danger because of a certain disease, the introduction of foreign animals / plants, causing a total unbalance in the original situation.
I sincerely hope that NO exceptions will be made, allowing the hunting / killing of a certain number of grey wolves again. We should know by now that ALL we do in contradiction with the original situation and which was successful for hundreds of years, is RARELY A SUCCESS, ON the CONTRARY !! THE WOLF is a formidable animal and should keep it's place as he takes care of the sick and the old animals who are his daily food !!

Edith B
Edith B8 months ago

Good news!

Danii P
Past Member 8 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Cindy S
Cindy Smith8 months ago

pretty pics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Callie R
Callie R8 months ago

I love wolves. Such magnificent creatures. Thank you.

Donna T
Donna T8 months ago

thank you