Protecting the First Gray Wolf in California in 88 Years

Just after Christmas of last year, a 2½-year-old gray wolf designated "OR7" entered California, becoming the first wolf to inhabit our state since 1924. He dispersed from the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon last September, possibly to carve out his own territory and find a mate. Ever since his historic foray into California, scientists have been following his movements by monitoring the signal from his radio collar.

OR7 Oregon Dept of Fish & Wildlife.jpg

Since entering California, OR7 has walked more than 15 miles a day, through ponderosa pine forests, mixed conifer forests, lava flows, sagebrush shrublands, juniper woodlands, and agricultural land. The Department of Fish and Game keeps a log of his movements, which you can find here, although there is an intentional delay in the postings in order to protect OR7’s current location. You can also follow OR7’s biggest superfan on Twitter (@WolfOR7).

Most recently, OR7 made headlines after wandering extremely close to the 63,000-acre Chips fire in Plumas County. Scientists speculate that he may have been trying to prey on animals fleeing from the fire.

Wolves roamed vast areas of California before humans drove them to extinction. Their historic range included the Sierra Nevadas, the southern Cascades, the Modoc Plateau, and the Klamath Mountains. They may have even traveled as far south as the Central Valley and the western slope of the Sierras. Although the Department of Fish and Game does not intend to reintroduce gray wolves to our state, Department staff concluded in a December 2011 report that today’s California could support hundreds of gray wolves.

This native California species deserves our support and protection so that populations can recover and eventually thrive here. That's why we're supporting the Center for Biological Diversity, Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in their efforts to petition the California Fish and Game Commission to list the gray wolf as endangered throughout its range in California.

Protecting wolves makes both ecological and economic sense. Studies show that wolves play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and increasing biodiversity. We've also seen that in places where wolf populations have been restored, tourism by visitors hoping to see wolves and experience “wolf country” has served as a strong economic engine for local communities.

You can show your support for the wolf petition by sending an email to the Commission at [email protected] before its next meeting on October 3rd. By doing so, you'll be helping us protect the first gray wolf to appear in California in almost nine decades.

Thanks to my colleague Lauren Packard for contributing to this post.

Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish & Game

About the Authors

Damon Nagami

Senior Attorney and Director, Southern California Ecosystems Project

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