Lone wolf returns to Plumas County

Feather Publishing

OR7, the lone grey wolf that wandered from Oregon into California last December, re-entered Plumas County Thursday, July 12, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

The wide-ranging male wolf was in Lassen County June 22, moved into Plumas County June 25, and continued to move back and forth between the two counties.

Technical difficulties caused officials to lose track of him for several days. His collar was working, but the website used to collect the information was down.

According to the agency’s tracking, OR7 had entered Butte County from Plumas County by July 2.

After several more days without a satellite reading, the wolf appeared in northeastern Butte County July 9.

There was no satellite download July 10 or 11.

As of Friday, July 13, OR7 was still in northwestern Plumas County.

The appearance of a wolf in California has elicited a variety of responses, from ranchers who would like to shoot on sight (one reason DFG does not disclose OR7’s exact location) to others who see the animal as a potent symbol of our natural heritage. In that context, it’s important to understand the animal’s status in California.

Although DFG has prepared for the possibility that wolves would one day re-enter California, the state does not have any plans to reintroduce wolves. Wolf reintroduction is a tangled issue. For starters, it would call into play the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). There are a host of questions that would have to be answered: whether reintroduction would be in the public interest, whether sufficient habitat and prey exists, and who would pay the substantial costs of management and monitoring.

In many Western states, including California, wolves are considered endangered under the federal ESA. The federal act generally prohibits the harassment, harm, pursuit, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capture or collection of wolves in California, or the attempt to engage in any such conduct. The California Fish and Game Code does not specifically address wolves. They would be considered non-game mammals, the taking of which is prohibited by state law except under limited circumstances.

If wolves become re-established in California, DFG will coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public land managers and USDA Wildlife Services to monitor wolf sightings and work together to manage wolves in California. Rather than “reinvent the wheel,” DFG would confer with its Oregon counterpart and other western state wildlife agencies to discuss their processes for developing wolf management plans.

But that is a long way off, if it ever happens. Right now, we have a very special visitor. Let’s treat it with respect by letting it go its own way, greeting it neither with hostility nor with ill-advised attempts at engagement.

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