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Wolf packs survive devastating fire year 

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Gray wolf.

Following massively destructive wildfires in the North State last year, there was concern among state wildlife officials that the small California gray wolf population may have been seriously reduced in burned-over areas.

Kent Laudon, a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s northern division in Redding, said most of the wolves did survive and the packs are intact, at least for now.

“The Lassen Pack that has been reproducing since 2017, they’re still going at it and we think that there’s about four or five wolves in that pack,” Laudon said. “Whaleback pack is in Siskiyou County. They had their first litter this year. We think that most or all of those pups have survived, which would put the pack somewhere at eight or nine wolves.”

There is a third less well-known trio of wolves known as the Beckworth Pack in the Sierra Valley area. Laudon says they too seem to be okay for now, though they have yet to reproduce.

For all the packs, much still depends on the availability of food resources, such as deer.

Looking at the Lassen Pack, whose territory was affected by the Dixie Fire, Laudon says they appear to be making some territorial adjustments that may be related to the deer population.

“There is some indication that they’re using the home range differently post fire,” he said. “At some point, we may be able to go backwards and look at the movement data and see if there’s any kind of relationship of fire and how that has changed habitat in a way that redistributes deer.”

There is some good news for North State wolves living in burned areas. The plants that typically are the first to generate after a big fire are much preferred by deer.