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Lone wolf's arrival leads to protection petition

OR7, also known as Journey, traveled about 1,000 miles and is now in Siskiyou County.

A petition to protect the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act was filed Monday by four conservation groups eager to see the world's top canine predator re-established in the Golden State.

The petition was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center amid intensive statewide interest in the first wolf to enter California in almost 90 years.

The wolf, known as OR7 because he originally came from Oregon, has traveled about 1,000 miles over dense forests and mountainous terrain. He has been tracked by game officials using signals from his GPS collar through Lassen and Shasta counties. The wolf is now in Siskiyou County, close to the Oregon border.

The move by the environmental groups requires the California Department of Fish and Game to review whether wolves should be considered for protected status. The Fish and Game Commission would make the final determination after a yearlong review process.

Gray wolves in California and other areas of their historic range are already protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Adding them to the state listing would enhance their protection, requiring fish and game officials to prepare a wolf recovery plan, specify a target population and come up with ways to manage conflicts, including livestock depredation.

Crucial habitat

"The return of the gray wolf to California is exciting - it's a cause for celebration," said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "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."

Wolves were exterminated in the lower 48 states, except Minnesota, in the 19th and early 20th centuries largely to protect livestock. The last known native California wolf was trapped and killed in Lassen County in 1924.

In the mid-1990s, 66 Canadian wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in an attempt to bring the apex predator back. There are now more than 1,700 gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. They have since moved into northeastern Oregon, where there are 29 wolves in four packs.

Last spring, the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population was removed from the endangered species list, but that does not include wolves in California. The delisting has resulted in more hunting of the canine carnivores, particularly in Idaho and Montana.

Looking for mate

California's wolf, also known as Journey, left what is known as the Imnaha Pack in Wallowa County, Ore., last year and crossed the California state line in December, apparently looking for a mate so he could start a new pack.

The historic journey is being followed intently by conservation groups, ranchers, farmers and hunters throughout the state.

Ranchers, the primary opponents of wolves, point out that OR7's former pack mates have killed 21 cows and calves over the past two years. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife killed two of the culprits and were planning to cull two other wolves, including the pack leader - OR7's father - before conservation groups filed a lawsuit.

Greenwald said wolves will need protection under the state's Endangered Species Act because, even though they are protected federally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service never established any wolf management protocols.

The push for more protection comes as California's lone wolf appears to be contemplating a return to Oregon.

"The fact that he got here and that there are increasing numbers of wolves in Oregon and Washington indicates that it is only a matter of time before wolves head back into California and establish a pack," Greenwald said. "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."

Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. pfimrite@sfchronicle.com


 "It cited a 2001 study that ...the northeast corner of California could support as many as 470 wolves."


Protection for OR-7 sought after Idaho wolf is poached
California listing would create need for recovery plan

Herald and News 2/28/12

(AP) — The only gray wolf in California arrived after heading south out of Oregon last year while his brother headed east into Idaho, moves that sealed each of their fates.

The brother is dead, shot illegally by a hunter this month, but in the Golden State wildlife advocates are demanding lifesaving protections for the lone wolf known as OR-7. A GPS satellite maps the wolf’s travels, and he is the first of the predators to roam within the state’s boundaries since 1924.

On Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Fish and Game Commission to protect gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act.

Though gray wolves are protected by the federal act, listing the wolves in California would mean wildlife officials must consider a recovery plan.

“There’s really no guide for the management of the gray wolf in California,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“If that one wolf is to become ma ny, wolves need help so they don’t get killed,” Greenwald wrote.


If the wolf were protected it would press authorities to determine how many wolves would be needed to populate a given area before it would not be considered endangered. It would include a plan to deal with rancher conflicts over livestock depredation, tools for ranchers to use to avoid conflicts and monitoring for disease such as distemper and rabies.

Already the California Department of Fish and Game has been preparing for the wolves’ return. Department officials are meeting with ranchers and environmental groups as they continue work on a management plan that was begun before the wolf even crossed the border.

“ We are really trying to be proactive,” said Karen Kovacs, the wildlife program manager in the northern region the wolf is roaming. “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.”

Primary threats

Illegal hunting and car strikes are the primary threats to gray wolves in California, which the petition argues will increase without endangered species status. Oregon and Washington listed the gray wolf before any of the species migrated there.

The petition filed with the state says that growing populations in Oregon and the Washington Cascades mean “wolves are likely to continue to naturally disperse to California, and to establish a breeding population.” It cited a 2001 study that concluded that the northeast corner of California could support as many as 470 wolves.


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