Scientists Discover New Wolf Pack in Southern California

Turns out there's a connection to the famed OR-7

Gray wolf standing in the green grass howling
Scientists just learned of a new pack of wolves in the United States
Getty Images

In the first decade of the 21st century, wildlife enthusiasts across the country became intrigued by the story of one well-traveled wolf. Known as OR-7, the wolf’s travels across Oregon and California made it an online sensation — a phenomenon author Erica Berry discussed in her terrific book Wolfish. OR-7 also had the distinction of being the first wild gray wolf recorded in the state of California this century.

By 2020, authorities believed that OR-7 had died. But this wolf’s legacy lives on — very literally, as it turns out. As Smithsonian Magazine reports, scientists recently documented a previously-unknown gray wolf pack living in California, and they seem to be descendants of OR-7.

Wildlife biologist Michelle Harris shared evidence of the wolves on her Instagram, describing the encounter she and a colleague had with the wolf, along with subsequent findings from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The stunning wolf we saw is a descendant of OR7, the first wolf to have crossed into California in 2011,” Harris wrote. “She has four pups.”

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Pamela Flick of the conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife addressed the wolves’ journey across California in a statement. “This recently detected group of wolves is at least 200 straight-line miles from the nearest known California pack and demonstrates the species’ amazing ability to disperse long distances and take advantage of the state’s plentiful suitable habitat,” Flick said.

For anyone who found OR-7’s travels around the West Coast compelling, this latest finding is a welcome followup to that earlier wolf’s odyssey — and impressive evidence of a new generation.

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