For the first time in over 100 years, a gray wolf has been spotted in Giant Sequoia National Monument in southern California, the LA Times reported.
Michelle Harris, who saw the wolf in early July, described seeing a big, gray canine cross a fire road in the area.
“Then it tilted its head back and let out a really decent howl,” Harris told the LA Times. “All I could think was, ‘It doesn’t look like a coyote, but it has to be, right?’”
Later analysis of the tracks, hair, and scat left behind proved that the animal was a female gray wolf, the leader of what has now been dubbed the Tulare Pack, the LA Times claimed.
With her came four of her offspring, two male and two female. DNA analysis also showed that they are direct descendants of the wolf OR-7, who in 2011 was the first wolf in California in 90 years.
Environmentalists were excited about the reappearance of wolves in the area and urged the U.S. Forest Service to halt logging projects in the region until their impact on the endangered wolves could be assessed.
But not everyone is happy about the news. According to the LA Times, logging companies are resistant to putting their projects on pause, while livestock owners worry that their animals could become food for these large predators.
That same fear was behind the original project to exterminate wolves across the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries. Unfortunately, removing an apex predator had unexpected effects on the environment thanks to booming deer and elk populations.
As in Yellowstone National Park, the absence of wolves affected the entire ecosystem and landscape, and restoring them could have an incredible balancing effect.
Farmers and ranchers also have little to fear, as the state of California already has a system in place for reimbursing the owners of livestock killed by wolves, the LA Times revealed.
While humans sort out their response to the new pack, Harris said the wolves themselves might have moved on.
“I haven’t noticed any fresh evidence of the pack since July,” she said. “There’s been a lot more activity in the area since then. Maybe they’ve moved to a quieter place with room to roam.”
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