DFG Wildlife Program Manager Karen Kovacs and Mark Stopher of the DFG executive office told the board the state agency has no plans of introducing or reintroducing the wolf to California. They said they are closely monitoring the movements of OR7 and that they are beginning to work on plans to deal with natural colonization. DFG is getting daily location updates from the wolf’s GPS collar, Stopher said.
Since the wolf’s entry into California, DFG has been providing daily updates to supervisors from Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen and Shasta counties. Stopher noted that the information given to the public has been very general, in order to protect the wolf from harassment.
Stopher said the DFG and many others have been anticipating the return of the species for some time. He explained that OR7 is a “dispersing” wolf that has left its northeastern Oregon pack in search of a mate or a new pack. He also said that the typical fate of a dispersing wolf is death because they are less effective hunters and may even be killed by a new pack if it finds one.
“Where this animal is going to end up is anybody’s guess,” Kovacs told the board. “It’s like having teenage kids. Can you predict their behavior? Not very well.”
She said OR7 is currently “hanging out in eastern Shasta County.”
Kovacs also said the DFG is receiving calls about wolf sightings from all over the state, though none have been confirmed. She said OR7 is the only confirmed wolf inside of California and he is traveling alone.
Yesterday’s meeting was the DFG’s first with any county supervisors regarding OR7, but meetings with other counties are scheduled throughout the next two weeks. In addition, Stopher said he and Kovacs have been and will be continuing to meet with environmental, agricultural and hunting organizations to update them and address their concerns.
“It would be reasonable to expect that there would be more dispersing wolves over the next few years,” Stopher told the board. “In terms of when – or if ever – California has a wolf pack of its own that is reproducing, it’s hard to predict when that would be.”
He explained that in Oregon it took 10 years, adding that it wouldn’t be likely to happen until there are reproducing packs in Southern Oregon.
Erin Williams of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was also on hand to provide information and answer questions from a federal perspective. She said gray wolves are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in many areas throughout the lower 48 states. She said the Rocky Mountain populations were delisted by a congressional action last year.
Williams said that, though OR7 is not known to have preyed on any livestock, she recognizes the concern over livestock depredation.
“We do have options – non-lethal techniques – if there was an event where an animal was moving closer to livestock ... we would look at investigating as well as helping support financially ... if that became the case.”
She added that, “There is no allowance under the law for killing of a wolf that is going after or preying upon livestock, but there is an allowance if there is a direct threat to life and limb for humans.”
She said there would be a very rigorous investigation of such an incident as well as penalties if the “take” were found to be illegal.
Kovacs said she has identified four major categories of public concern related to the wolf’s presence in the state – livestock depredation, impacts to big game populations, public safety and the well-being of OR7.
Those categories accurately summarized the procession of concerns from the board and public comments that followed the DFG presentation.
District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook told the agency representatives he was not terribly concerned about this one lone wolf, but was much more concerned about “the next wolf that comes through.” He pressed the DFG representatives for answers regarding compensation for depredation. He also expressed concern over what he believed was their lack of a solid plan to manage or control wolves as their numbers increase.
Siskiyou County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales was concerned with where the DFG would find the money to manage a new species. He also expressed concern about the impact wolves would have on what he called a catastrophically depleted deer population in Siskiyou County. He also said he believed that much of the wolf debate would end up in the realm of politics rather than science.
Leo Bergeron, president of the Siskiyou County Water Users Association, proposed passing a law prohibiting wolves in Siskiyou County.
Regina Neri’s comments were aimed directly at District 5 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong, who was absent. Neri felt that Armstrong’s comments in the media did not represent all of Siskiyou County residents. She said Armstrong was quoted in the “L.A. Times” as saying, “We would like to see them shot on sight.”
“As a Siskiyou County resident ‘we’ is not me,” Neri said. “I’m in favor of strong protections for wolves. I think that kind of statement ... promotes fear and instigates aggression ... And I think furthermore, she’s encouraging people to commit a crime for which they could be severely punished. I just think it was an irresponsible thing to say.”
Liz Bowen, president of Scott Valley Protect Our Water (POW), said those in favor of wolves in California should “walk a mile in our shoes.” She said she feels that wolves reproduce too fast to be effectively managed.
For more information about OR7 and DFG’s policies and plans regarding the species, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/wolf/.