California's lone wolf returns
11th December 2013
California has been wolf-free for 90 years. But now a lone wild wolf is moving in over the Golden State's border with Oregon, most recently last weekend. But pending full legal protection there are fears for its future.
Anyone who says wolves don't need state protection because there are no wolves here today isn't facing up to the scientific reality.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is native to California but was driven to extinction in the 1920s. In fall 2011 a lone wolf designated 'OR-7' left his birthpack in NE Oregon, crossed into California, and spent 15 months ranging across California's NE, returning to Oregon in March 2013.
He re-entered California briefly in April 2013, and now made another visit last weekend. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, OR-7 crossed the border into Siskiyou County on December 7, then returned to Oregon
"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 Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity CBD). "As sure as anything in nature, more wolves will be crossing the line into California."
However wolves do not enjoy legal protection in California under the state's Endangered Species Act. They are protected under Federal legislation, but this protection could end under a federal proposal to de-protect wolves in the lower 48 states. Without state protection OR-7 and any other wolves would be at risk from hunters.
The CBD and three allies petitioned California's Fish and Game Commission to grant endangered species protections to gray wolves in February 2012. Next the Commission directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a 12-month status review and make a final recommendation. Officials are reportedly "leaning against listing" - largely because OR-7 had left the state.
"Anyone who says wolves don't need state protection because there are no wolves here today isn't facing up to the scientific reality", says Weiss. "Wolves are blissfully unaware of the lines on our maps and they 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."
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