When a lone gray wolf trotted across the border into California on Thursday, a little bit of history was made. That’s because this was the first wild wolf to appear in the state in close to a hundred years. The young wolf was first spotted leaving the rest of his pack behind in Oregon in September.
Known to conservationists as ‘0R7,’ the two-and-a-half year-old male was tracked via his GPS collar several miles inside California’s northern border. The news is being seen as a victory amongst environmentalists and wildlife agencies. Charlton H. Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Game, told the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Whether one is for it or against it, the entry of this lone wolf into California is an historic event and the result of much work by the wildlife agencies in the West. If the gray wolf does establish a population in California, there will be much more work to do here.”
Not everybody is so ecstatic. Concerned farmers and ranchers are worried the reappearance of wolves in California will threaten the safety of livestock. In California, wolves have long been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, so shooting a wolf is out of the question. Local cattle rancher Jack Hanson says only the law is holding ranchers back:
“We do not welcome the wolf back in California. We would like to put a big shield up and keep him out, no doubt. [...] If there were no regulations, our family would shoot them on sight so that they did not multiply.”
However, others contend a lone wolf is not a threat, and that livestock are only targeted by packs of wolves. Assistant regional director of ecological services for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest region Mike Fris told the Chronicle a single wolf is “more likely to be feeding on carcasses than livestock. He’s the only wolf we know of in the state of California at the moment.”
Although livestock may be endangered by packs of wolves, the gray wolf is not known to target humans, with the rare few attacks in history attributed to rabies or starvation.
0R7 is the only wolf in California right now, but that’s expected to change. The gray wolf population has been on the rise in the States in recent years. In 1999, a lone wolf crossed the border into Oregon, and the state now has almost thirty gray wolves, divided into four packs. Good to see a species actually thriving for once!
[Via San Francisco Chronicle]