Congratulations are in order for the two endangered gray wolves OR-85 and his female mate WHA01F, who just welcomed eight new pups, the largest litter of gray wolf pups California has seen in more than 100 years.
In very encouraging wildlife news, the Chronicle ran a Tuesday story declaring “California wolf pack produces state’s largest litter of pups in a century,” which told us about a pair of endangered gray wolves who just welcomed eight new pups. (The pups were actually birthed this past spring, but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is just now confirming the births.) So if it’s California’s “largest litter of pups in a century,” you’d think that maybe we somehow know that a pair of gray wolves had a larger litter some 100 years ago.
That is not the case. 100 years ago, gray wolves had been hunted to extinction in California. This is the largest known litter since gray wolves returned to the state — and it's a on-average large litter anyway, with wolves typically giving birth to two to six pups at a time.
GREAT news! @CaliforniaDFW confirmed that the Whaleback Pack welcomed 8 pups this year - the state's largest known litter in over 100 yrs!— Wolf Conservation Center (@nywolforg) November 28, 2022
CA is home to 2 other packs - the Lassen Pack + the Beckwourth Pack.https://t.co/IwIDZZ62jB
That’s why the eight gray wolf pups are a cause for celebration among wildlife enthusiasts. The wolf parents are formerly known as the Whaleback Pair, and they showed up in Siskiyou County in November 2020, as the Mount Shasta News reported at the time. They became the Whaleback Pack when they gave birth to seven pups in 2021, and you can see a glimpse of those little puppers below, now making them the second largest gray wolf pack in California.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s explainer of known endangered wolves in California, “The Whaleback Pack consists of the male wolf OR85 and an uncollared female. They occupy a 480 [square mile] home range in eastern Siskiyou County. OR85 was collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) in February 2020 and was likely born in 2019. He dispersed from the Mount Emily Pack near La Grande, Oregon and entered California in November 2020. Genetic analysis indicates the female is closely related to southwestern Oregon’s Rogue Pack. In 2021, the pair produced seven pups."
The male OR85 is named as such because he wandered into California from Oregon. The female is named WHA01F, as the Mount Shasta News explains, “WHA for Whaleback and 01F for the first marked female Whaleback wolf.”
Well howl about that! two of California's existing wolf packs—the Lassen pack and the Whaleback pack—have welcomed a flurry of pups into their families this year.https://t.co/epfir8FT3G— Oakland Zoo (@oakzoo) August 29, 2022
If you’d like to see some of these endangered gray wolves up close, there are four of them at the San Francisco Zoo, one of whom is named “Betty White.”
Image: US Fish and Wildlife Service