The Return of the Gray Wolf

By | January 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm | No comments

Photo by Kingarfer via flickr

For 85 years the gray wolf has been absent from the state of California. But now, after a long deficiency, the gray wolf has returned.

According to the California Department of Fish and Game a 2 ½ year old male (they have been tracking), also known as OR-7, has recently made the long journey to California. His impressive trek was over 700 miles from the northeastern corner of Oregon, coming through into the California Siskiyou County on Wednesday. OR-7 is the first confirmed wild wolf in California since 1924. A once-native species, Wolves play a very important role in the California ecosystem, and the return of OR-7 brings a great opportunity for scientist and wildlife enthusiasts to study the new beginnings of wolves in California.

There is a sad history in California when it comes to Wolves. European settlement vastly changed the populations due to market hunters and bounty laws to rid the state of wolves and coyotes. By the middle of the 1920’s any wolf in existence, living in California, seemed to have disappeared altogether. Today, OR-7, and any other wolves that wander into California, are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

Reintroducing wolves into California could have a very positive effect on the ecosystem. The current populations of elk, deer and coyotes could be restored to their natural ecosystem dynamics, balancing out their numbers and inching back towards their historic levels. Studies conducted in Yellowstone National Park – after reintroduction of wolves – show that wolves played a key role in restoring natural ecosystem subtleties. Documentation of forcing elk to choose different locations, wolves allowed stream side vegetation to grow, benefiting beavers and birds. Restoration studies of the wolf in California has shown that the Klamath-Siskiyou and Modoc Plateau regions that overlap northern California and southwestern Oregon could support up to 470 wolves, as determined by the Conservation Biology Institute. This could have a big impact of coyote populations, benefiting fox and pronghorn numbers.

While wolf restoration efforts in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes region have been successful, wolves still occupy a fraction of both their historic range and currently suitable habitat in the lower 48 states. The Center for Biological Diversity 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. For more information on protecting and restoring wolves in the United States, check out this website:

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