Researchers identified a new pack of endangered gray wolves in Tulare County, California, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday. The new pack was found in Central California’s Tulare County – about 200 miles from the nearest pack in Northern California. 

After receiving reports of wolf sightings in Sequoia National Forest, researchers collected various samples, including hair and scat to be analyzed using genetic testing, the agency said. DNA confirmed that all samples were from gray wolves.

Researchers identified a new pack of gray endangered wolves in Tulare County, California.

Michelle Harris/California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Gray wolves were once native to California, but had all but disappeared by the 1920s, wildlife officials said. The new pack consists of at least five wolves that have not previously been seen in the state. Most wolf packs have four to nine members. 

About two million gray wolves once roamed North America, until a federal extermination program decimated the population, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. 

Sequoia National Forest researchers collected various samples including hair and scat to be analyzed using genetic testing.

Courtesy Samantha Winiecki-Love

The center estimates there are about 6,000 wolves are left in the U.S. In October 2020, the Trump administration stripped gray wolves of protections under the Endangered Species Act. 

After being delisted, hunters in Wisconsin killed 218 wolves in February of 2021. In January of 2022, 20 gray wolves were killed by hunters when they roamed outside of Yellowstone National Park. 

However, in February of 2022, a federal judge ruled that gray wolves should be re-added to the Endangered Species Act, about 16 months after they had been removed from the list. 

— Alexandra Larkin contributed to this report.