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California's Lone Wolf Returns, Highlighting Need for Wolf Protection
SAN FRANCISCO— California’s first confirmed wild wolf in nearly 90 years made a return trip to the Golden State for a brief visit this past weekend. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the wolf called OR-7 crossed the border into Siskiyou County on Dec. 7, then returned to Oregon. His brief foray back into California supports the position advanced by wolf advocates that wolves from Oregon will continue to make their way into the state and that the species thus warrants protection under California’s Endangered Species Act.
“As sure as anything in nature, more wolves will be crossing the line into California,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned the state in February 2012 to grant endangered species protections to wolves. “Anyone who says wolves don’t need state protection because there are no wolves here today isn’t facing up to the scientific reality: Wolves are coming.”
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is native to California but was driven to extinction here by the mid-1920s. In fall 2011 wolf OR-7 left his birthpack in northeastern Oregon, crossed into California, and spent 15 months ranging across California’s seven northeastern-most counties before returning to Oregon in March of 2013. He reentered California briefly in April, so this new visit is the second this year.
“Scientists have identified more than 50,000 square miles of suitable wolf habitat in California, so no one should be surprised that OR-7 finds it suitable too,” said Weiss. “And other wolves will follow.”
In February 2012 the Center for Biological Diversity and three allies filed a petition with the state Fish and Game Commission seeking full state protections for gray wolves. The commission agreed that listing might be warranted and directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a 12-month status review and report back with a final recommendation. The status review has been completed, and agency officials have indicated they are leaning against listing — largely because OR-7 had left the state.
“When we make policy on wildlife, reality has to trump politics, because nature won’t be fooled,” said Weiss. “Wolves, who are blissfully unaware of the lines on our maps, will keep coming back to California, where they once roamed freely. It’s our duty to keep them safe when they cross that invisible line.”
Gray wolves are currently protected in California under the federal Endangered Species Act but a pending federal proposal to strip wolves of protections across most of the lower 48 could leave wolves entering California with insufficient protections if the state decides against listing wolves.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.