Tag Archives: gray wolves

1st wolf pack in decades seen in northern California

California has its first wolf pack since the state’s gray wolf population went extinct in 1924.

State and federal authorities announced that a remote camera captured photos earlier this month of two adults and five pups in southeastern Siskiyou County.

They were named the Shasta pack for nearby Mount Shasta.

The pack was discovered four years after the famous Oregon wandering wolf OR-7 first reached Northern California.

Karen Kovacs of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said it was an amazing accomplishment for gray wolves to establish themselves in Northern California just 21 years after wolves were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies.

Those wolves eventually migrated into Oregon and Washington before reaching California, where they are protected by federal and state endangered speciesacts.

Just where these wolves, all black in color, came from will have to wait for DNA testing on scat at an Idaho lab, but it is likely they are a continuation of the increasing numbers of wolves migrating from Oregon’s northeastern corner to the southern Cascade Range, Kovacs said.

Though the wolves have been spotted by local ranchers tending their herds, there have been no reports of wolf attacks on livestock, Kovacs said.

Amaroq Weiss, of the conservation group with Center for Biological Diversity, said she was more worried the wolves could fall victim to hunters as hunting season gets underway.

Anticipating that wolves would migrate into the state, California declared them an endangered species last year, but the state Fish and Wildlife Department does not expect to have a management plan in force until the end of this year, Kovacs said.

The department has no goals for how many wolves might eventually live in California and no idea how many once lived in the state, she added. California’s last known native wolf was killed in 1924 in neighboring Lassen County.

There are at least 5,500 gray wolves in the contiguous 48 states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Congressional rider would strip protections for gray wolves

Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to fund the Interior Department contains a rider that would end Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states and Wyoming.

A similar rider removing protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana was attached to a key appropriations bill and passed in 2011, marking the first time that Congress legislatively removed protections for a species. Since the 2011 rider passed, more than 1,900 wolves have been killed in the two states and many similar riders removing protections for species have been attempted.

“This is another cynical attack on science and the Endangered Species Act that will result in wolves being mindlessly slaughtered in the few places where they have begun to recover,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The American people know that the gray wolf’s still-fragile recovery is one of the Endangered Species Act’s great success stories, and they want wolves protected until the job is done. The Obama administration needs to oppose this rider, which is out of step with the American people and has no place in an appropriations bill.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted federal protections for gray wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota in 2011 and in Wyoming in 2012.

Federal judges overturned both decisions for failing to follow the requirements of the act, failing to follow the best available science and for prematurely turning management over to state fish and game agencies openly hostile to wolves.

The rider in the Interior appropriations bill would reverse these court orders, wiping out Endangered Species Act protections for the approximately 4,000 wolves that live in those four states.

“Rather than letting the Endangered Species Act’s recovery process play out — not to mention the legal appeals on these two cases — House Republicans are ignoring both the best science on wolf recovery and the law,” Hartl said. “This meddling is dangerous for wolves, the rule of law and the Endangered Species Act itself.”

Since gaining protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, gray wolves have made progress toward recovery in the lower 48, with populations growing from fewer than 1,000 wolves to more than 4,000 today. When federal protections were lifted in 2011 and 2012, state-sanctioned hunts resulted in more than 1,600 wolves being killed, contributing to a 25 percent decline in Minnesota and a 9 percent decline in the Northern Rockies. The federal court decisions rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decisions to delist the gray wolf because the states’ regulatory programs did not adequately maintain wolf populations in those states.

In the western Great Lakes decision, the federal court observed that the service never downlisted the gray wolf from endangered to threatened — a middle step that would have allowed states to address wolf conflicts while allowing for the continued recovery of the wolf.

In January, about 20 organizations filed a petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves as threatened.

“Congressional delisting of the gray wolf in Montana and Idaho opened a dangerous door,” said Hartl. “Now no species is safe from cynical and politically motivated attacks by the extreme wing of the Republican Party. From the sage grouse to the Delta smelt to the critically endangered American burying beetle, every endangered species is now on notice that it can be consigned to extinction by the whims of Congress for no other reason than being politically unpopular.”

Wisconsin congressman introduces measure to remove wolves from endangered species list

Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble has introduced legislation that would remove gray wolves in those states from the “endangered” species list.

This legislation comes on the heels of two recent court cases that placed wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming back under federal protection due to overreaching state management programs that jeopardized wolf recovery. It is the first of several bills expected to be introduced this Congress seeking to weaken protections for wolves and to subvert a series of federal court rulings that determined that the federal government has too narrowly segmented wolf populations and that the states had overreached in their trophy hunting, commercial trapping and hounding programs.  

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said, “This legislation is an end-around a series of federal court rulings that have determined that state and federal agencies have acted improperly in acting to delist wolves. This bill is just a the latest act of political bomb-throwing and gamesmanship, and lawmakers who want balance on the wolf issue should reject it.”

In November, Michigan citizens voted overwhelmingly to increase protections for wolves and to put a stop to plans that would have allowed trophy hunting and commercial trapping of wolves.

And earlier this year, The HSUS and 21 animal protection and conservation organizations offered an alternative to congressional delisting and a path to national recovery by petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act as threatened throughout the contiguous United States, with the exception of the Mexican gray wolf which remains listed as endangered.

If adopted, the proposal would continue federal oversight and approval of wolf management efforts, but would also provide more  flexibility for state and local wildlife management to address specific wolf conflicts, including lethal control for depredation of livestock.

Earlier this year, a Washington State University peer-reviewed study revealed that wolf control efforts often trigger effects that result in more livestock depredation by breaking up packs and stimulating reproduction by survivors.