Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wolf expert to speak in Yreka

By John Bowman
Siskiyou Daily News
Posted May 01, 2012

“The Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture wants you to have the facts so you know what to expect if wolves become established in Southern Oregon and Northern California,” stated a recent press release from the department announcing an upcoming presentation about wolves.

At 6:30 p.m on May 10 at the Miners Inn Convention Center at 122 East Miner Street in Yreka, Carter Niemeyer – “an expert on wolf biology and a leading authority on wolves” – will give a presentation on the potential influences of wolves on the Siskiyou County ecosystem.

Niemeyer has worked for the Department  of Wildlife Services in Montana and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where he helped develop wolf management plans in Idaho and Oregon. He will give a presentation on wolf behavior, wolf impacts on elk and deer populations, and procedures he has used to confirm wolf kills on livestock.

In addition, he will answer specific questions from audience members about wolf management and their potential impacts on the local livestock industry.

OR7 background

Since it first entered Siskiyou County in December, gray wolf  OR7 has wandered far and wide across Northern California, stirring up controversy in each of the  counties it has crossed through and throughout the state.

After spending most of March in Southern Oregon, OR7 ventured back into Siskiyou County on April 1 only to bounce back into Oregon on April 11 and again back into Siskiyou County on April 17.

Since then, the wolf has wandered from northeastern Siskiyou County down to the southeastern section of the county and most recently into Southwestern Modoc county on April 27.

California’s wolf potential

In response to concerns about California’s policies and preparedness to deal with the recolonization of wolves in the state, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has posted a report on its website titled “Gray Wolves in California: An Evaluation of Historical Information, Current Conditions, Potential Natural Recolonization and Management Implications.”

According to the report, Larsen and Ripple (2006) modeled gray wolf habitat suitability (those areas calculated to have “>50 percent wolf pack probability”) in Oregon and several adjacent states.
That model identifies areas of probable wolf habitat in the Cascades and Siskiyou/Klamath area  adjacent to California’s Del Norte, Siskiyou and Modoc counties. Larsen and Ripple estimated that Oregon could support approximately 1,450 wolves, including 600 in the Cascades and 120 wolves in the Siskiyou/Klamath region (18 wolves/1000 km2 in both areas).

Carroll et al (2001) developed a model for Oregon and California that included estimated prey density, prey accessibility (a function of slope, where increasing ruggedness makes prey less accessible), and security from human disturbances (a composite of road and human population density).

The 2001 Carroll model predicted the southern Cascades/Modoc Plateau region of Southern Oregon and Northern California would likely provide the largest, essentially contiguous area of suitable habitat in the study area. The authors estimated the area might support 190-470 wolves.
Other areas modeled as suitable habitat in California included the Sierra Nevada and parts of the southern Klamath and North Coast ranges.

However, Carroll developed a second 2006 model which predicts that if current habitat trends continue, the central and southern Sierra Nevada would provide the largest area for a potential wolf population in California.

Other areas of potentially suitable habitat, according to the 2006 Carroll model,  include California’s southern Cascades, the Modoc Plateau (in the approximate vicinity of Mt. Shasta, the Medicine Lake highlands, the Devil’s Garden, and the Warner Mountains), and the Klamath Mountains (in the approximate vicinity of the Trinity Alps Wilderness).

“Compared to many areas in California, these areas have low human population density, have few year-round or heavily traveled roads, and are predominantly public land,” the CDFG report states.
The CDFG has acknowledged that gray wolves will likely recolonized areas of California in the future and Siskiyou County is likely to be home to some of those wolves.

“Based on the current distribution of wolves and the predicted distribution of suitable habitat in the state, it is most likely that dispersing wolves will first arrive and reside in Modoc or Siskiyou counties,” the report continues. “However, any future pattern of habitation in the state is unknown.”
Regarding the legal status of those wolves that do find their way into California, CDFG says, “any wolves dispersing into California will be considered endangered pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.”