California's only known gray wolf pack has eight new pups.
Eight youngsters were tallied in the Lassen Pack in northeastern California, according to an April-through-June report from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Genetic testing of their excrement shows at least four are male and two are female, according to the agency.
The father is a black-furred male that began traveling with the pack last year. He isn't related to any other known California wolves, and his origin isn't clear, the agency said.
The pack in Lassen County now has at least 14 animals.
Gray wolves were eradicated in California early in the last century because of their perceived threat to livestock. An Oregon wolf with a radio collar, dubbed OR-7, arrived in 2011, becoming the first confirmed wolf in the California wild since 1924.
OR-7 later returned to Oregon, where he founded the Rogue Pack before vanishing last fall. Other Oregon wolves, including several offspring of OR-7, have turned up in California. A male from the Rogue Pack was the first breeding male of the Lassen Pack, but he hasn't been seen since last year.
A pack of seven wolves was seen in Shasta County in 2015 but vanished within a year.
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"We're elated at the birth of the Lassen Pack's endearing pups, who are breathing new life into the Golden State's wolf recovery," said Amaroq Weiss, an advocate for West Coast wolves at the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity. "These little ones give hope to everyone who wants to see wolves reestablished in the places these beautiful animals once called home."
Wolves are protected under California's Endangered Species Act even as the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to delist gray wolves as an endangered species. The reappearance of wolves in the state has riled ranchers, who say wolves have preyed on their livestock on public or private land.