For Immediate Release, December 29, 2011
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
After 85-year Absence, Wolves Return to California
Wandering Male Wolf Traveled Hundreds of Miles to Reach New Home in Northern California
SAN FRANCISCO— For the first time in more than 85 years, a gray wolf has been documented in California. The 2 ½-year-old male, known as OR-7, journeyed more than 700 miles from the northeastern corner of Oregon, crossing into California’s Siskiyou County on Wednesday, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. OR-7, and any other wolves that wander into California, are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act.
“The thrill of the howl of a lone wolf has returned to California after all these years — what a cause for celebration,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Studies show that wolves benefit many other wildlife species. Californians should be proud and excited that this day has finally arrived.”
Until the 20th century, wolves populated much of California, where they played an important role at the top of the food chain. Following reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, scientists documented that by forcing elk to move more and to choose different locations, wolves allowed streamside vegetation to grow, benefitting beavers and songbirds. Northern Rocky Mountains wolves, the very wolves from which OR-7 descends, have also had a dramatic impact on coyote populations, benefitting fox and pronghorn numbers.
“The key to restoring wolves in California is going to be tolerance by people, including ranchers,” said Greenwald. “Wolves are a very small cause of livestock losses and there are many proven methods for ranchers to avoid losing livestock to wolves.”
Although wolf restoration efforts in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes region have met with success, wolves still occupy a fraction of both their historic range and currently suitable habitat in the lower 48 states. The Center has a pending petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a nationwide recovery plan to return wolves to suitable habitat, including pockets of California.
“Wolves are resilient creatures who ask for just a little tolerance in order to survive and thrive,” Greenwald said. “OR-7’s arrival in California is an important and promising sign that there’s still plenty of good wolf habitat out there.”