The issue of wolves migrating back into California has become controversial, as wolf conservationists and cattle ranchers continue to battle over the rights of the endangered animals. Following the shooting of a wolf dubbed OR-59 in Modoc County in 2018, federal officials are offering a $2,500 reward for information in the investigation.
On December 2, 2018, officials tracked OR-59 traveling into NorCal from Oregon wearing a GPS collar. Three days later, it was spotted feasting on the carcass of a local calf. Although investigators indicated the calf died from a pneumonia, ranchers saw it as vindication of their wolf worries. On December 9, OR-59’s tracker indicated it had died and investigators found it along County Road 91 shot by a .22-caliber weapon.
“CDFW takes very seriously any threats to this recovering wolf population and will investigate fully any possible criminal activity in these deaths. CDFW reminds the public that killing a wolf is a potential crime and subject to serious penalties including imprisonment,” officials said on the state wildlife website.
The fish and wildlife service is asking anyone with information about the wolf shooting to call 916-569-8444.
The revival of wolves in Northern California remains a controversial topic in rural communities. The fascinating animals diversify the local ecosystems while creating legitimate arguments between conservation and protecting personal property.
In December of 2011, a lone wolf dubbed OR-7 wandered across the Oregon border into California, traveling as far south as Butte County before eventually returning to Oregon. It was the first time a gray wolf was seen in the state since the early 1900’s and was the beginning of a long battle between cattle ranchers and environmentalists, who have different views of the animals place in the state.
The famed Shasta Pack, which had terrorized cattle ranchers in Siskiyou County for years, went missing in late-2018, leading some to believe they were murdered by fed up ranches. Ranchers claim that their standoffs and run-ins with loggers eventually scared the pack out of the area. But the ongoing poaching case shows little faith in that theory.
In 2019, environmentalists scored a victory when a San Diego Superior Court Judge tossed out a case filed by California farming and ranching associations that challenged the protective status of wolves in the state. With their livelihoods at stake, are ranchers killing these rare wolves to protect their cattle?
Today, the Lassen Pack remains California’s only known wolfpack, welcoming a litter of three new pups in 2019. The Lassen Pack is the descendant of famed OR-7 and currently resides in the wilderness near Lassen County.
Wildlife officials in Oregon have claimed that 15 wolves have been illegally killed in recent years, with just two people being prosecuted for those deaths. In California, wolf killers could face years in prison.