Monday, August 3, 2015
State wildlife officials say they found evidence of a gray wolf roaming the wilds of Siskiyou County near the Oregon border, news that could reignite a debate over whether the wolf deserves protection.
After receiving reports early this year of possible sightings, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife set up several remote trail cameras in southeastern Siskiyou County.
One of those cameras captured an image of what may have been a wolf in May, but an examination of feces proved inconclusive. In June, biologists found an apparent wolf track and placed another camera. On July 24, they found the camera had captured images of what they believe is a lone gray wolf.
Photo: Trail Camera, California DFW
The sighting comes a little more than a year after OR-7, a wolf wearing a tracking device who wandered between California and Oregon for three years, settled down and mated in southern Oregon, according to wildlife officials.
Wolves were once common in the California wilderness. But OR-7’s entrance into California on Dec. 28, 2011, marked the first known foray into the state in 90 years.
Conservationists, including Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, were excited by the latest sighting. “The fact that we have a second potential wolf coming back says it’s important for us to have this tolerance” for a once-feared species, she said.
Ranchers, however, are concerned that a return of the gray wolf could endanger livestock. Because state wildlife officials placed it on the endangered species list last year, ranchers have little ability to protect livestock, said Kirk Wilbur, director of governmental relations for the California Cattlemen’s Association. “There is no real animosity toward the gray wolf on behalf of ranchers,” he said. “The concern is with the possibility of gray wolves depredating livestock and ranches not having any recourse.”
The issue could come to a head in the next couple of months when the state releases a wolf plan.
Like OR-7, the wolf in Siskiyou County is believed to have left a pack in Oregon in search of a mate or another pack.