California’s only wolf pack welcomes more new pups, but with a different father

California is home to just one wolf pack, which makes its home in a Northern location kept secret by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. And as the pack welcomes eight newborn pups as part of its fourth consecutive annual litter, there’s another mystery surrounding the endangered group: Where did the old dad go?

According to officials, the pups in the wolf den have a different father than the ones that arrived in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but they’re not positive why. Hunters, diseases, accidents, and traps can all make life difficult for a wolf, and given that officials caught the wolf pack’s previous father walking with a limp from an unknown cause recently, they think this may have helped another male wolf push its way into the pack’s family tree.

“It’s not easy being a wolf,” Amaroq Weiss, a wildlife biologist and wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “People think wolves are killing machines. That’s not the way it is. Most of the time, a wolf comes back from a hunt empty-handed.”

Though the growth of the state’s wolf population, no matter who the parents are, is opposed by sheep and cattle ranchers, wolf supporters argue that the animals are a net positive for the state because they kill weak prey, keeping herds healthy and free of disease.

“This is incredible news,” said Weiss said of the births. “This is an endangered species that humans once tried to wipe from the face of the Earth. These little ones give hope to everyone who wants to see wolves reestablished.‘’