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Wolves in California

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POSTED January 16, 2012 12:58 a.m.

Recently there have been several news stories documenting the return of the Grey Wolf to California. So far it’s only one wolf, wearing a tracking collar that has definitely been recorded appearing in Siskiyou County and then in Plumas County in Northern California.

Nicknamed “Journey by the press, wolf Or-7 had been fitted with a radio collar in Oregon before beginning his trek into California. The California Department of Fish & Game has established a new website to keep us abreast of “Journey’s travels. That’s the official story, but wait, there’s more.

The Backcountry Resource Center is a non-profit organization headed by Paul Pritchins Jr., author of four books on the High Sierra mountains. The manager in charge of environmental protection for the California Energy Commission, Pritchins is no babe in the woods. In the Backcountry Resource Center website he describes seeing what he believes to be an adult wolf in the High Sierra in 2007. Additional credible witnesses report seeing seven separate wolf sightings in the area between 2000 and 2008.

Prior to the recent arrival of Journey in California, government experts discounted the wolf sightings as people mistaking coyotes for wolves or wolf-dog hybrids. Personally, I find the reported wolf sightings pretty credible. Until a few years ago the ivory billed woodpecker was declared extinct. Then some darned fools went and found some in the swamps of Arkansas, of all places. A decade ago, all the experts declared the wolverine to be extinct in California until a graduate research student setting trail cameras got pictures of one in the Lake Tahoe region. Since then there have been numerous photos of wolverines in California. I guess those darned wolverines didn’t read that they were extinct.

Whether they are recent migrants to our state or whether they’ve been here all along, it’s pretty certain that before long there will be wolves prowling our state once again. Last year a 32-year-old teacher in Alaska went for her daily jog and never returned. It turns out she was attacked and killed by wolves. In 2005 a 22-year-old graduate student in Saskatchewan, named Kenton Carnegie was killed by wolves as well. Less than a year earlier a mine worker walking home from work was attacked in the same area, as Carnegie, but Fred DeJarlais was able to fight off the wolf until help came. DeJarlais received stitches to close wounds on his arm, legs & hip.

We see so many nature films that the public perception of wolves is now that they are warm cuddly critters who are devoted parents and just want to be left alone. That impression is probably just as mistaken as the old stereotypes that The Big Bad Wolf was an evil killer who liked nothing better than children for breakfast. I suspect that both impressions are wrong. I believe that wolves are highly efficient predators that will kill you if you underestimate them. Understandably, the Farm Bureau, Cattlemen, & Sheepmen are concerned for the welfare of animals that provide their livelihoods. California Fish & Game officials are already preparing to deal with our new wolf populations and are working with the concerned groups. For now, wolves are completely protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and it is verboten to shoot one unless it is attacking humans or livestock.

There is no need to panic or even to avoid going outdoors, as long as you are vigilant, and take reasonable precautions so that you don’t become the next wolf victim we read about in the news.

Until next week,

Tight Lines

 

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