We just learned such great news that I am actually almost howling with excitement… The California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that it has been tracking a gray wolf that has likely dispersed from Oregon into Siskiyou County in northern California! This new wolf is the second wolf known to venture into California in the last four years, following the tracks of the famous “OR-7,” who now has a pack of his own in the southern Cascades. After being eradicated from the state and subsequently missing from the California landscape for nearly a century, wolves are finally making their way back home to the Golden State, where they belong.

The presence of this wolf – whose sex and specific origins have yet to be determined – affirms what we have known for a long time: California’s rich areas of suitable habitat can and should support a healthy population of wolves, and wolves want to return… it was only a matter of time before they did.

A wolf spotted on a trail camera in California in July 2015

And it seems that OR-7, this new wolf and the other gray wolves that will surely follow have chosen the right time to come back to California. Though by 1924 the animals had been completely driven from the lands that they called home for centuries – hunted, trapped and slaughtered to near extinction – people finally began to realize that the health of our landscapes was suffering without wolves, and that America was in grave danger of losing one of its most iconic species.

Now, 83 percent of voters polled in California believe that “wolves should be protected in [their] state;” and that “wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.” So it is up to Californians to ensure that wolves are indeed welcome in the state, and to ensure that they are protected in every way possible as they make their way toward recovery. The state must take care not to make the mistakes that we have seen in places like the Southwest and in Idaho, where wolves are still being needlessly slaughtered and where elected officials have waged an all out war on wolves.

Thankfully, in terms of protecting gray wolves, so far it appears California is headed in the right direction. Last June, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to establish state protections for gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act.

Californians can coexist harmoniously with wolves, one of the most important and iconic American species now just struggling to survive. Giving gray wolves a proper “welcome home” will take the cooperation of a whole range of stakeholders ready to promote coexistence and ensure that wolves and people can share the landscape – and we have faith that Californians can achieve these goals. A common saying goes along the lines of, “if you want to look to the future, look to California.” Well, we hope to see a future where gray wolves thrive in California and in suitable habitat all across America… Here’s looking at you, California!