Six years ago in the Oregon wilderness, a gray wolf pup was born into the Imnaha pack. By the age of 2, he’d grown from a pup into a wolf weighing nearly 90 pounds – that’s when he first met the biologists who named him “OR-7” and started tracking his movements. Just a few months later, OR-7 left the Imnaha pack and set out alone on an epic journey over hundreds of miles – through deep forests and mountain passes; crossing barren desert and gushing rivers; skirting small towns and dodging highway traffic – pushing further and further south.
For four months, the biologists watched as OR-7 kept pace all the way through southern Oregon until he was right up against the California state line. He crossed over on December 28, 2011, becoming the first gray wolf known to set foot in California in a hundred years.
Since then, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been working on an official management policy for gray wolves – but the brief window for public comments on the plan closes February 15, 2016. [Update 2/29/16: CLCV members submitted more than 15,000 comments on the plan - thank you, and keep checking here for more updates!]
A century ago, you could hear the howls of wolves echoing on canyon walls and across the valleys of California. But as the human population boomed, the gray wolf population dwindled until none were left living in the Golden State.
Gray wolves weren’t even on California’s endangered species list, because it was too late. They had all been killed or driven out by human activity – especially hunting – and there was no use in trying to protect them.
Until now. OR-7’s presence in California helped set in motion the preemptive listing of wolves as an endangered species in California in 2014, and the development of a state plan to manage a growing population of wolves is now almost complete.
While the department's plan is sound overall, we have concerns about one section in particular: It states that if there are more than nine breeding pairs of wolves or the population exceeds 50 statewide, officials could potentially remove the species from the endangered species list.
OR-7 crisscrossed the Oregon-California border several times after his first visit here four years ago. He eventually found a mate, and they produced a litter of pups in 2014. And another litter just this year.
And while OR-7’s pack has settled on the Oregon side of the state line, a new pack of wolves in California was caught on camera earlier this year: Two separate adult gray wolves… and their five pups!
They are California’s “Shasta Pack” – and for now, they are the only wolves we have. Thank you to the many CLCV members who made public comments in support of a thriving gray wolf population in the Golden State.