Wolf enters California: Wild California Just Got a Little More Wild

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

For the first time since 1924, a wild wolf is roaming the State of California.
According to the California Department of Fish and Game and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, on December 29, 2011, a wolf crossed into a remote area of Siskiyou County north of Mt. Shasta.  The young male wolf was born in the Hells Canyon area of the Snake River in northeastern Oregon in 2009.  Biologists outfitted the wolf with a GPS tracking device in February 2011 and have been receiving location information ever since.  The map below shows the path of the wolf, dubbed OR-7 by researchers.

Wolf Recovery in Northern California
Many people are asking:  Can wolves live in California?  Most people think of Yellowstone National Park, Idaho or Montana when they think of wolf habitat.  While it may seem a little strange at first, California has extensive areas of suitable habitat for wolves.  In particular, large wilderness areas such as the Marble Mountains, Trinity Alps and backcountry areas around Lassen and Mt. Shasta have high potential to support wolves.  Furthermore, once re-established in northern California, wolves could feasibly repopulate the Sierra Nevada which contains a large amount of suitable habitat in its own right.  Researchers modeling the suitability of habitat for wolf recovery determined that the southern Oregon Cascades and vast areas of northern California’s wild areas would support wolves (Carroll et al. 2006).  For a comparison of our region to core wolf country in the northern Rockies, the maps below show suitable habitat if lands are managed for restoration of natural processes and wildlife populations.  Of particular importance is the removal of roads.  Darker green indicates the best habitat while light green and red show less suitable habitat that would act as linkage areas.

Suitable wolf habitat in Northern California and Southern Oregon

Suitable wolf habitat in Idaho, Montana and greater Yellowstone











The questions and answers about wolves returning to California are becoming clearer day by day.  As biologists learn more about wolf behavior in Oregon, this knowledge will be directly applicable to California.  As leading wolf researchers have argued, large predators can make a comeback to California (Carroll et al 2001).   We are now beginning to see the proof.

At EPIC, we intend to advocate for wolves as strongly as we advocate for all native biological diversity in northern California.  That means continuing our important work in defending our forests and wild areas from exploitation and destruction.  Because of this work and the tireless efforts of many individuals to defend and restore our wild landscapes, we can offer something to this wild wandering wolf.   Whether he remains in our region is anyone’s guess, but we hope that he likes what he finds and is joined by more wolves in the near future.

Literature Cited:

Carroll, C., Phillips, M.K., Lopez-Gonzalez, C.A. and N. H. Schumaker.  2006.  Defining recovery goals and strategies for endangered species: the wolf as a case study. Bioscience 56:25-37.  Available at: http://www.klamathconservation.org/docs/carrolletal2001b.pdf

Carroll, C., Noss,R.F., Schumaker, N.H.and P. C. Paquet.  2001.  Is the return of the wolf, wolverine, and grizzly bear to Oregon and California biologically feasible?  Pp. 25-46. In:  Maehr D, Noss RF, Larkin J, Eds. Large Mammal Restoration: Ecological and Sociological Challenges in the 21st Century. Washington (DC): Island Press.