Target: President of the California Fish and Game Commission, Michael Sutton
Goal: Thank vote to extend endangered species protections to Gray Wolves in California
Although no wolves are currently known to live in California, state wildlife officials recently voted to extend endangered species protections to wolves in anticipation of their return to California’s forests. The once-native species was eradicated from the state in the early 1900s through a vicious and bloody government-sponsored extermination campaign. Until recently, the last wolf seen in the state was trapped and killed in 1924. During the same time period, wolves were almost completely eliminated from the rest of the continental United States, leaving only tiny populations in Northern Minnesota and Michigan. Wolves did not roam the West again until their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s.
The impetus for the new listing is a lone male wolf known as OR-7, who was first seen wandering into Northern California from Oregon in 2011. OR-7, so called because he was the seventh gray wolf fitted with a tracking collar by Oregon wildlife officials, wandered over 200 miles from his birthplace in the Cascades to the wilderness along the Oregon/California border. He has been searching for a mate for at least three years, and researchers believe that he has finally found one, fathering at least two pups in a den in southern Oregon. If OR-7’s family survives, it is likely this will be the beginning of a new wolf pack—one that officials are hoping will include Northern California in its territory. Researchers have said they expect that there will be established wolf packs in Northern California within the next decade.
Despite this victory, wolves are far from safe in the continental U.S. The California Cattlemen’s Association and other agriculture groups strongly opposed the listing, claiming that it would limit their ability to protect their livestock in the event of predation. In several other western states, wolves are still treated as pests and can be shot on sight just for being in the vicinity of livestock, even if no attacks have occurred. Additionally, even though wolves are currently on the federal endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering de-listing the species. This makes California’s listing that much more important to the species as a whole. Please thank the California Fish and Game Commission for protecting this iconic species.
Dear Mr. Sutton,
The extension of endangered species protections to Gray Wolves is important both for promoting ecological balance and for changing human perceptions of our relationship with this special species. Hopefully, the story of OR-7 and his family will inspire a new generation of Californians to see the wolf as an integral part of a healthy forest landscape, and a species worthy of our respect.
Aldo Leopold coined the term “thinking like a mountain” to describe the perspective needed for ecosystem-level thinking. Thank you for applying this wisdom to the future management of Gray Wolves in California.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Retron via Wikimedia Commons