California has voted to add gray wolves to the state’s list of endangered species as the animal seems poised to make its way back there for the first time in about 80 years.
The California Fish and Game Commission voted 3–1 to do so on June 4, two days after wolf pups were spotted in southern Oregon. They are the offspring of a tracked wolf known as OR-7, who has been observed roaming into northern California from Oregon since 2011. OR-7 had left his original pack, the Imnaha, in April 2009, venturing farther and farther afield until appearing to settle down in the southern Cascades after finding a mate.
On June 4 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced they had confirmed the existence of pups.
“This is very exciting news,” said Paul Henson, state supervisor of the Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office, in a statement. “It continues to illustrate that gray wolves are being recovered.”
Gray wolves were nearly exterminated in the early 1900s, but have been rebounding over the past few decades, especially since being reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park, the Los Angeles Times noted. In some areas, hunting restrictions have even been lifted so that wolves can be culled where necessary to protect livestock.
Although OR-7 was the first wolf to be observed in California since 1924, it’s not inconceivable that other wolves have made it there as well, wildlife officials said. The state is also in the process of crafting a wolf-management plan, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife had tried to convince the commission that the pending wolf management plan, which is scheduled to be made final later this year, would have done the job. Classifying them as endangered engendered concern among livestock owners, who want to have the right to protect their cattle. A second vote will take place in August to make the measure final, the Associated Press said.
But the fish and game commissioners said there was no such thing as too many protection measures.
"There is no more iconic animal in the American West than this one,” said Michael Sutton, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them re-colonize their historic range in our state."