Sunday, September 30, 2012

State fish and game commissioners consider listing grey wolves as endangered

Officials will consider this week adding California's only wolf to the list of state's threatened and endangered species, nine months after it moved to the state from Oregon.

But the wolf wouldn't be added to the list this year. The California Fish and Game Commission will consider Wednesday to further study whether the gray wolf should be listed as a threatened or endangered species.

That means another year of studying the one wolf in California and gray wolves in general, said Dan Yparraguirre, the California Department of Fish and Game's deputy director of wildlife and fisheries.
Considering the controversy that has surrounded the wolf, known as OR-7, Wednesday's meeting likely will be well-attended, he said.

"There's going to be two very polar positions on this thing," Yparraguirre said.
Siskiyou County Supervisor Grace Bennett said the county is sending a representative to the meeting to testify against the proposal.

"We don't think it's a good idea," Bennett said. "The wolf they are bringing back is a totally different species" than what lived in the state in the early part of the 20th century.

She said the livestock raised in Siskiyou County could become prey for wolves, and the deer herds that already are suffering could be further harmed, she said.

Born into a pack in northeast Oregon in 2010, OR-7 migrated into the southern part of the state last fall. When he finally crossed the border into California in December he became the first wild wolf in California since 1924, according to the DFG.

Since then he has trotted through several Northern California counties, including Shasta, Tehama and Siskiyou counties. He even returned to southern Oregon for a time.

Wildlife officials have been monitoring his movements through a GPS tracking device on his collar and posting his locations on the DFG's website.

In March, the Center for Biological Diversity, Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center submitted a request to list the wolf.
During the past summer, OR-7 has been traveling between northern Plumas and eastern Tehama counties. The most recent satellite reading is from Friday, when he was in western Plumas County, according to the DFG.

OR-7 already is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, according to the DFG.
Adding gray wolves to the state list of threatened or endangered species would provide protection for the animals if the federal government delists them, said Amaroq Weiss, Northern California representative for the California Wolf Center.

Weiss said she will speak at the commission meeting on behalf of her organization and two other groups.

The wolf needs protection because it is a population of only one, and if it doesn't reproduce there, gray wolves will again be extinct in California. She said the wolf should not be allowed to go extinct.
"It's bringing back a piece of our natural history," Weiss said.

Yparraguirre said the state is not advocating reintroducing more wolves into the state to ensure the survival of the species.

But the environmental groups support reintroduction, according to the state. A report to the commission says the environmental groups that proposed the wolf's listing recommended taking five steps to ensure wolf populations could recover to the point they're no longer considered endangered:
List the wolf as an endangered species.

Develop a recovery plan showing suitable habitat for the wolf and conservation goals.
Address human-wolf conflicts and wolf impacts on livestock and other property.
Identify and resolve barriers that keep wolves from dispersing.
Support establishing breeding pairs in the state if it doesn't occur by 2017.
Bob Williams, chairman of the Tehama County Board of Supervisors, said the county is not sending a representative to the meeting. But the board sent a letter to the commission opposing listing the wolf.
The letter includes a report that says the rangeland in Tehama County potentially could support up to 173 wolves, which annually could consume from 132 to 1,184 head of cattle, or 166 to 1,496 bison, or 1,263 to 11,366 deer.

"We believe wolves would be a threat that is incompatible with humans (hikers, campers, residents) and ranchers (specifically livestock) in Tehama County, and the potential impacts would weigh as a heavy burden on the county, its citizens and agricultural industry," the letter says.