A gray wolf was spotted in Kern County earlier this year, marking the southernmost sighting to date in California since the endangered species returned to the Golden State after a nearly 100-year absence.
The collared gray wolf was captured on a trail camera in the southwestern part of the county back on May 15, but officials just received the footage last week, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
It’s possible the animal seen in the video is the gray wolf known as OR-93, whose last known whereabouts was neighboring San Luis Obispo County on April 5, the department said in a news release on Saturday.
“Even though the video evidence is more than three months old, CDFW will immediately investigate the area for additional information in hopes of finding wolf DNA for analysis,” the release stated. “CDFW will also conduct flyovers to attempt to connect to the collar through radio telemetry.”
If confirmed to be OR-93, the sighting would mark the first of the male wolf since his collar stopped transmitting on April 5. By that point, the approximately 2-year-old wolf had traveled at least 935 miles through California after first entering Modoc County from Oregon earlier this year, the department said.
OR-93 also made headlines back in March when he reached Fresno County, which was then the farthest south in California a GPS-collared gray wolf had been tracked, according to Fish and Wildlife officials.
The species is native to California but was likely eradicated from the state in the 1920s. Then, in 2011, a lone gray wolf from Oregon crossed into California, becoming the first official sighting in the state in almost a century.
But few gray wolves are known to exist in the state; the current population being tracked includes three wolf packs in Northern California, along with a handful of others that are radio-collared.
CDFW reminds residents that gray wolves pose little threat to humans and are protected under California’s Endangered Species Act, making it illegal to hunt, shoot, kill, harm, harass, hurt, trap or capture them.