Conservation groups want to protect the gray wolves entering California so they can grow in population after an absence for more than 80 years. The Center for Biological Diversity and three other conservation groups sent a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to protect gray wolves as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act under state law. They want to develop a plan to protect them. A plan to help rancher conflicts with the gray wolves attacking their livestock, tools for ranchers to use to avoid conflicts, and monitoring the gray wolves for diseases such as distemper and rabies.
Oregon and Washington already have state wolf-management plans that they put in place before the wolf population was established. Recently, wolf populations have grown enough in Idaho and Montana that they no longer require protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They have delisted them as endangered species and officials have opened up regulated hunting for gray wolves last year.
Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity says, “With growing wolf populations in Oregon and Washington, it’s inevitable wolves will be moving back into California in the near future. There’s really no guide for the management of the gray wolf in California.”
“The return of the gray wolf to California is exciting, it’s a cause for celebration. The West Coast is crucial to wolf recovery in the United States, and California has hundreds of square miles of excellent wolf habitat. But if that one wolf is to become many, wolves need help so they don’t get killed. They need the protection of the state’s Endangered Species Act, and they need a science-based recovery plan,” Greenwald added.
Karen Kovacs, the wildlife program manager in the northern California region where the wolf is roaming says they are trying to come up with a wolf management plan. “We are really trying to be proactive. We’ve asked for additional funds that would dedicate staff to focus solely on wolf management, but it depends on what the governor believes is most important. We have water and fish issues in this state too.”
“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes, including California, for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a certain future. The return of wolves to California will help restore the natural balance and reverse the historic wrong done by people who shot, poisoned and persecuted wolves into oblivion,” Greenwald said.
A lone wolf known as OR-7 arrived in California after he headed south out of Oregon last year. He is the first gray wolf to roam California since 1924. In 1924, the last gray wolf was caught and killed by a trapper. OR-7 is from a pack of wolves that had crossed into Oregon and now live with 24 others. He was affixed with a GPS collar and has been documenting his every step.
A contest was held in Oregon to name him, and he was tagged with the name Journey. His Twitter account that tweets his travels is WolfOR7, with the following profile description: “Native Oregonian, now living in California. Grew up in troubled family. Daddy wanted by the law. Hobbies: wandering, ungulates. Don’t call me Journey.”
“California has a lot of wolf habitat. We’d like to think that California would welcome wolves back,” Greenwald said.
The Center for Biological Diversity was joined in the petition by Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.
Let me tell you, whomever surveyed this California/Oregon border coulda done a better job. Good thing I’ve got GPS on my collar. #OR7
— WolfOR7 (@WolfOR7) February 27, 2012
— WolfOR7 (@WolfOR7) February 22, 2012
The petition reports the number of gray wolves documented through-out the area. “As of the filing of this petition, the current number of documented gray wolves in California is one male wolf, OR-7, which dispersed from a pack in Oregon. However, since 2009, two wolf packs have been living in northeastern Oregon and in 2011, two more packs were documented. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has not placed radio-collars on all juvenile wolves from these four packs (ODFW 2011); in fact only six collared wolves are currently trackable. Several un-collared wolves from Oregon packs have unknown fates. Likewise, in Washington State there are currently 27 confirmed wolves. However, not every wolf in Washington is being tracked with a radio collar. Therefore, it is impossible to rule out the possibility that previous dispersal events to California may not have occurred, which simply went un-detected because it is difficult to locate and track dispersing individual wolves (USFWS et al. 2011). Given the long distances that individual wolves can travel, it is possible that some of these individuals have dispersed to remote areas along the California-Oregon border. Currently, neither the California Department of Fish and Game nor the U.S. Forest Service in California conducts regular surveys to determine whether wolves are present within the state.”