Saturday, February 27, 2016

We can live peacefully with the wolves

Pamela Flick

Posted: 02.26.2015

On a cold day in late December 2011, California's landscape quietly changed in a historic way: a wild wolf was confirmed in the Golden State for the first time in nearly 90 years. This lone male wolf, dubbed OR-7, was confirmed by wildlife officials to have made the long journey from northeastern Oregon to Siskiyou County. But OR-7 didn't stop there; he traversed parts of seven different counties in the northern part of the state over the course of 15 months before heading back to Oregon, where he established his own pack in Rogue River territory.

OR-7 was a true trailblazer, and we now know that other wolves have followed his tracks. When the presence of our own resident family of wolves, the Shasta Pack, was announced last August, it hit me: Wolves are back – and we have a golden opportunity to make a tremendous difference for this iconic species.

While an overwhelming majority of Californians believe that wolves are a vital part of America's wilderness and natural heritage, some still have unfounded fears about wolves created by myths and folklore. Many do not know the true lives of wolves, the strong social bonds they nurture within their familial packs or their important role in the natural world. But Californians can coexist with wolves, if given the right tools.

I am particularly hopeful about the future of wolves in the Golden State after attending the successful nonlethal tools workshop in northern California in the small town of MacArthur earlier this month. The workshop's more than 150 participants were actively engaged throughout the very long day, learning about coexistence tools and practices that have been successful in reducing conflicts between livestock and predators.

I shared multiple examples of the positive outcomes from the use of coexistence tools and strategies all around the country — including the Wood River Wolf Project in central Idaho, where wolves have shared the land with the state's highest concentration of sheep grazing on public lands — all with minimal livestock losses and no need to lethally remove wolves in the area.

Livestock loss is a common occurrence in ranching operations, although a vast majority is due to health and disease issues, birthing complications, injury and even weather, which many times cannot be helped.

However, losses from predation can be reduced successfully when proven, proactive methods to protect livestock are properly implemented. These tools include increasing human presence through range riders, removing attractants like carcasses and sick animals and using specialized fencing and guard dogs at key times of the year. Utilizing these kinds of strategies effectively promote coexistence between livestock and predators sharing the landscape – and protect ranchers' bottom line.

While the McArthur workshop was an incredibly important first step in California wolf recovery efforts, it is just the beginning. This year will bring even more opportunities to work with ranchers and other allies on this historic conservation opportunity in California. I urge northern Californians to keep in mind that coexistence with wolves is possible. Our state has an important role to play in setting the golden standard for managing wolves in a principled, ethical and sustainable manner.

Through open communication and collaboration, we will be able to find ways to live in harmony with wolves as this iconic species continue to make their return to the Golden State.


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