The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has substantiated reports of a gray wolf in northern Ventura County, marking the farthest south in California that any gray wolf has been confirmed in 99 years.
Previous to this spotting, the southernmost confirmed gray wolf appearance was one captured in San Bernardino County in 1922. California’s gray wolf population was likely driven out and destroyed that decade, according to the CDFW.
The wolf seen in Ventura County was reported to CDFW officials three times between Sept. 20 and 26, and CDFW staffers confirmed recent wolf tracks in the area, the department announced Friday.
Officials also believe they may know which wolf it is — OR-93, a gray wolf from Oregon — though they do not yet have evidence to confirm it.
OR-93, who wears a purple tracking collar affixed in June 2020 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon, matches the descriptions in the reports given to CDFW officials.
OR-93’s collar was monitored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife until it stopped transmitting in April in San Luis Obispo County, and neither the ODFW nor the CDFW know the wolf’s current location.
Before the Ventura County reports, OR-93 may have been last seen on video taken in May on a trail camera in southwest Kern County, though that footage was not seen until August, according to the CDFW.
If given the chance, the CDFW may try to capture the wolf and re-collar it to continue tracking its journey, which has taken it nearly 1,000 miles through California.
Gray wolves are endangered according to California’s Endangered Species Act, and it is illegal to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap or capture gray wolves,” according to the CDFW.
If a gray wolf is seen, it should be reported on the CDFW website.