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Grey Wolves Are Returning To California After Long Absence

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently announced that an intrepid grey wolf is on the move again.

The young male, OR-93, originally came from Oregon and has since meandered hundreds of miles through several North State counties. At the end of February, he appeared in Mono county, near Yosemite. That’s the southern-most reach of a migrating wolf in California to date.

Grey wolves have been absent from California since the mid-1920s, following a concerted effort by government agencies to extirpate them. In 2011 however, they began to drift down from Oregon into Northern California. It’s common for young males to leave their natal packs to establish their own groups and OR-93 is likely searching for a mate. Only one pack currently exists in the North State – the Lassen Pack – which birthed four cubs six years ago. 


Credit 123 RF

Fewer than 20 wolves are known to be in California. They were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act last year under the Trump administration but are still protected under California’s Endangered Species Act. Their population is monitored and conserved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which works with ranchers to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts.

Wolves are wary of people and attacks are extremely rare even in places where there are concentrated populations; in Alaska and the Rockies in the U.S., and in Scandinavia. 

Wolf attacks are so rare that a new attack raises a stir in the scientific community.  In the few instances where wolves have attacked humans, several were found to be rabid. Predation of pets, usually dogs, is also uncommon.

Ranchers are understandably concerned about the reintroduction of a new large carnivore. In a study conducted by Colorado State University, wolf predation of sheep and cattle accounted for less than 1 percent of the annual gross income from industry-wide livestock operations in the Northern Rocky Mountains.  


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However, losses were not evenly distributed, and some ranchers suffered more than others. Wildlife managers have developed several non-lethal tools to deter wolf predation, reserving killing as a last option. 

Now, a hundred years after their extermination, will Californians welcome wolves back to the state? Polls show that most people favor their return.