Planning Ahead For Wolves in California


Last week, wildlife officials reported evidence of a new gray wolf in Siskiyou County--the second documented sighting in California since the wolf known as "OR-7" made his historic foray into the Golden State four years ago. Biologists believe this new wolf, like OR-7, probably dispersed from a pack in Oregon. Because it isn't wearing a radio collar, officials will be tracking the new wolf with trail cameras and analyzing tracks, scat, and sightings.

We also learned last week that new trail photos (above) from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon have confirmed that OR-7--the first gray wolf known to inhabit California since 1924--had two new pups this year. Wildlife officials have previously confirmed that OR-7 and his mate had three pups in the spring of 2014, and the five wolves became known as the Rogue Pack. With these two new additions, the Rogue Pack is now seven gray wolves strong.

Wolves are returning to California, and state wildlife officials have been smart to plan ahead. Soon after OR-7 arrived in 2011, the Department of Fish and Wildlife formed the Gray Wolf Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) to provide input into the development of a comprehensive statewide wolf conservation and management plan. NRDC participated in the SWG, which met regularly over two years and included a diverse range of stakeholder groups representing farmers, wolf advocates, ranchers, environmentalists, sportsmen and women, and wildlife enthusiasts.

Later this year, the Department will release the first draft of its wolf plan and solicit public comment. While we and other SWG members provided input into the planning process, we don't know exactly what will be in the plan, so we will need to review it carefully when it's released. One important component that we'll be looking for is a focus on the use of nonlethal methods and tools to reduce potential conflicts between wolves and livestock. As my colleague Zack Strong mentioned in a recent post, nonlethal conflict reduction methods such as electric fencing, riders on horseback, and guard dogs are not only effective at keeping livestock safe, but because they are proactive rather than reactive, they can prevent conflicts from occurring in the first place.

Our bottom line is that we want to ensure that wolves are able to return safely to California and recover and thrive once they get here. The Fish and Game Commission took an important step in this direction last June by listing gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act. With its upcoming wolf plan, the Department has yet another opportunity to put an emphasis on conservation and coexistence, and protecting this iconic California species.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


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