Dec 31

CA: Ranchers Watch Wolf’s Return With Wary Eye

Calif. Officials Say Lone Predator No Threat To Livestock

BROOKS, Calif. — California ranchers reacted warily Friday to reports that a wolf has entered the state for the first time in decades.

“That’s a long ways from here, and it’s just one, but it’s going to change everything,” said Dan Gallardo, a third-generation cattle rancher in Yolo County’s Capay Valley.
Gallardo said he has closely been following reports that a lone gray wolf has crossed the border from Oregon.

“People will think it’s great, and they’ll go out and try to listen to them. Then, they’ll get back in their Volvos and drive back to their condominiums and leave us to deal with it,” said Gallardo.

Mark Stopher of the California Department of Fish and Game said Friday that the wolf, a 2-and-a-half-year-old male known as “OR7,” was last confirmed in eastern Siskiyou County. Stopher said a GPS tracking-device showed the wolf had moved about 10 to 20 miles southeast from its previous position on Thursday.

“The news of a wolf entering California from Oregon is one that has caught the attention of cattle producers statewide,” wrote Stevie Ipsen of the California Cattlemen’s Association in a statement to KCRA 3.
Ipsen said that since the wolf’s reintroduction in the mid-1990s, ranchers across the west have been “plagued” by them.

California is the nation’s third-largest largest producer of livestock, with with more than 5.1 million head of cattle. According to a document by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the industry generated about $9.8 billion in 2010.

For years, a private, nonprofit group known as Defenders of Wildlife compensated ranchers who lost livestock because of wolf attacks. In 2010, the federal government assumed responsibility for the compensation program and awarded $1 million to 10 states who administer it. California is not one of them.

Stopher said a compensation program was not immediately necessary, because, he said, wolves usually hunt in packs and an individual is not a threat to a livestock. However, Stopher said such a program might become necessary if the wolf population becomes established in California.

Sam Blake, a rescuer of wolf-dog hybrids, said he agreed that OR7 is not a threat to livestock. He said the wolf is probably surviving on roadkill.

“There’s a way to deal with wolves around livestock. It’s been proven. They just don’t want to take the time or the money to implement those procedures,” said Blake.

Blake said his greatest concern is for the animal itself, which he feared would likely be shot and killed, despite its federally protected status.

Source

Dec 30

ID: Wolves endure protection roller coaster

Depredations, hoaxes characterize another tumultuous year

by KATHERINE WUTZ

The Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride this year, bouncing back and forth from federal protection to state management.

While lawmakers hashed out species’ status, Idaho prepared for and began to carry out a statewide public hunt as falsely identified photos of “giant” wolves and “super packs” circulated on the Internet.

Species status

At the beginning of the year, gray wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were protected by the Endangered Species Act due to an August 2010 decision by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy. But wolves were removed from protection in April when Congress approved a rider to the fiscal 2011 federal appropriations bill that ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue a rule published in 2009 that delisted wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of three other states.

This vote made history, as it marked the first time that Congress had removed a species from the list.

The rider came under fire from conservationists, who filed several lawsuits arguing that the budget rider violated the separation of powers by overturning a judicial decision and protecting the rider itself from further judicial review.

For the moment, wolves in the Northern Rockies—as well as in the western Great Lakes area, which were removed from federal protection this month—remain under state management.

Public hunt

Removal of gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection opened the door for Idaho’s second state-sanctioned public wolf hunt in late August. In contrast to the previous season in 2009-10, hunters were allowed to use electronic wolf calls and leghold traps, provided they also had a trapping license.

A proposal from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game stated that the reason for the season’s looser rules was that fewer than 1 percent of hunters who bought an Idaho wolf tag in 2009 were successful.

According to a report from the department, a total of 145 wolves had been killed by hunters as of Nov. 30, 17 of them in the Southern Mountains Zone, which encompasses Ketchum, Hailey, Sun Valley and Bellevue. The report also states that 238 wolves were killed statewide throughout 2011, nine of them illegally and 13 of unknown causes.

Depredations

Three wolves were killed by federal Wildlife Services at the Flat Top Ranch near Carey in September, in response to a series of reported depredations. Rancher John Peavey said the wolves had attacked and killed one of his calves, a report confirmed by federal agents.

The wolves were part of the Bell Mountain pack, the alpha of which was killed by a hunter near Carey in November. The female wolf had escaped three kill orders and was well known by wolf advocates and trackers in the area.

Hoaxes

A prominent hunting picture that turned out to be falsely identified surfaced in early November and depicted a hunter holding up a wolf that reportedly weighed 230 pounds and had been shot in Sun Valley.

According to Todd Grimm, spokesman for Idaho Wildlife Services, the picture has been circulating since 2009 and was likely taken in Alberta. The wolf, Grimm said, likely weighed only 135 pounds.

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Dec 30

CA AB: Wandering Banff wolf found dead on highway

BY TANYA FOUBERT, CALGARY HERALD

A female wolf has been hit and killed by a vehicle on the TransCanada Highway near Lac Des Arcs.

Alberta park ecologist Melanie Percy said the smoky grey wolf was found Wednesday morning along the highway.

She said there was evidence the wolf had previously been wearing a GPS collar and for that reason it is believed she was part of the Bow Valley pack in Banff National Park.

The wolf had apparently been making its way east, but Percy noted that once past the park gates, the valley is a very difficult place for wolves to exist because of high levels of human use, particularly in the area where she was struck.

“That is a real pinch point for wildlife movement there,” she said. “Due to the natural and human-caused fragmentation, there is limited opportunity for movement.”

The section of highway at Lac Des Arcs features steep slopes against the lake and four lanes of traffic squeezed in between.

Steve Michel, human wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park, said there is a high probability the wolf was an identifiable member of the pack, which ranges in the park between Lake Louise and Banff.

That wolf was born in the spring of 2010 and had a collar on it programmed to drop off in mid-December. Michel said before she lost her collar, the wolf had been taking off on her own and spending more and more time away from the pack, establishing her own territory, a process known as dispersal.

“We did not know where she had ended up until we heard about the mortality,” he said. “It was likely her first time in that area.”

He added the wolf, known as No. 1101, was already notorious for frequently getting onto the TransCanada Highway in the national park despite the wildlife exclusion fencing in place.

While another wolf that dispersed from the pack last year has established his own territory in Kananaskis Country, Michel said it is difficult to say what the female wolf’s future may have been and it is a loss for the ecosystem.

“Any time we have a large carnivore killed, particularly on the transportation corridor, it is a loss for the ecosystem of the Bow Valley,” he said.

“Unfortunately a great deal of wildlife in the Bow Valley don’t get to live a life where they die a natural death because of the frequency of human-caused mortality.”

However, Michel added that Parks Canada is working hard to reduce wildlife mortality and mitigate the causes.

Source

Dec 30

Wolf-like animal carcass found in local wildlife area

Written by
Sharon Roznik
The Reporter

A state wildlife expert is investigating whether a dead animal found in the Eldorado Wildlife Area is a wolf.

The decomposed animal was stumbled upon by an area resident who was walking his dogs Wednesday near Heinrich Road in the town of Lamartine.

Results from DNA samples should reveal the identity of the animal, possibly a gray wolf or wolf hybrid, said Adrian Wydeven, mammalian ecologist and wolf expert with the state Department of Natural Resources.

“The feet look small, and the way the animal was scrunched up, it was hard to see, but the features do look very wolf-like,” Wydeven said.

Alan Erickson, DNR conservation warden for central Fond du Lac County, examined the animal firsthand and sent photos to Wydeven. He said it was partially frozen and looked like a large coyote or hybrid dog.

“My suspicion is that the animal may have been shot and then dumped here based on some of the evidence I found,” he said.

Some fibers, possibly from a tarp, were found on the animal’s fur.

If it was a coyote, the hunting season is continuous, Erickson said.

It’s not unusual for a lone wolf to travel long distances, Wydeven said. He cited a case from several years ago in which a gray wolf traveled from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Johnson Creek (near Jefferson) in a matter of six weeks.

He said cases of hybridization resulting from coyotes breeding with dogs do occur, but they are usually born out of the normal season and don’t survive.

State landowners will soon be able to hunt and kill wolves that cause problems on their property now that the predator is no longer an endangered species.

Wisconsin has about 782 wolves, and the sustainable threshold is about 350, said Kurt Theide, land division administrator for the DNR.

State officials welcomed the federal announcement as long overdue and pledged to keep wolf numbers healthy while allowing people to kill those caught assaulting farm animals or pets.

The state might allow hunting and trapping wolves, although no seasons have been set and the federal government will monitor the population for five years.

Gov. Scott Walker has charged the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with implementing a state wolf management plan by Feb. 1 that allows controlled kills and limited hunting on qualifying private properties where the animals are said to have become a nuisance.

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Dec 30

CA: Biologists: Lone Gray Wolf Crosses Into California

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lone gray wolf has wandered across the Oregon border into California in what wildlife officials hailed Thursday as the historic return of a species not seen in the state in more than 80 years.

Biologists tracked the wolf’s position to a few miles south of the state line in Siskiyou County, the California Department of Fish and Game said.

A global positioning system collar was placed on the wolf in February. Since then, the 2½-year-old male has wandered more than 300 miles from its original location. Its movement into California was widely anticipated as it approached the border just before Christmas.

“Whether one is for it or against it, the entry of this lone wolf into California is an historic event,” said Department of Fish and Game Director Charlton H. Bonham, acknowledging the debate over the spread of wolves in the western U.S.

The GPS data put the wolf in California as of Wednesday. Officials said they would only provide general information about its location, since gray wolves in California are designated a federally endangered species.

The last confirmed wild gray wolf in California was killed in 1924 by a trapper protecting livestock. Conflict between wolves and ranchers across the West remains a key point of tension as reintroduction efforts in recent decades have led to the species’ spread.

Biologists said they don’t know if the wolf will remain in California or wander back to Oregon or on to Nevada. They said the wide wandering from its pack in Oregon was typical behavior for a young male wolf.

The fish and game department expects other wolves to arrive in California at some point as part of a slow wolf migration linked to the 1995 introduction of a Canadian gray wolf pack to Idaho and areas around Yellowstone National Park. Wolves first re-entered Oregon in 1999.

Multiple wolves in California could lead to new packs becoming established, or they could simply wander on.

“If the gray wolf does establish a population in California, there will be much more work to do here,” Bonham said.

While the wolves in California will be under federal protection, state regulators said they have no wolf management plan and no intention to actively reintroduce the animals to the state.

Source

Dec 30

Oregon offers prime wolf habitat

Wolf populations elsewhere provide clues to state’s future

By JOSEPH DITZLER
East Oregonian Publishing Group

Wolves, as they reclaim their role as top predators in Oregon, may change the landscape in ways anyone can see, according to scientists who study wolves and their environment.

Wolves encroaching from Idaho and Washington already live in Eastern Oregon in the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests. But in terms of prime habitat, they may be more at home in central Oregon, on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, according to a 2006 study by Ted Larsen, at the time an Oregon State University graduate student in landscape ecology.

“Their habitat is confined to where there’s food available, where there’s prey, and where human density is at a minimum,” said Larsen, now a contractor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “A study in Wisconsin found road density was a key factor.”

Road density? Not that wolves are fearful of crossing asphalt, but roads indicate human activity. The more roads, the more humans and the fewer wolves. The number of roads criss-crossing the environment, the number of prey animals present and the number of humans living in the area are all factors in determining good wolf habitat, Larsen said. But two factors rose above the rest, he said.

“Public lands and forest cover came out to be the most significant habitat indicators,” he added.

1,450 potential wolves

Larsen calculated that Oregon has 42,564 square miles of potential wolf habitat, enough to support a population of 1,450 wolves. This year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officially counted 25 wolves but admits there are more. Confirming actual numbers of the elusive beasts is a challenge.

In Eastern Oregon, where four packs already roam, the landscape itself may change appearance over time due to their influence, said a research scientist familiar with wolf ecology. Bill Ripple and Robert Beschta, both of Oregon State University, studied the impact of wolves on Yellowstone National Park after the animals’ reintroduction there in 1995. Wolves, they wrote, created a “landscape of fear,” in which elk, once free to graze and browse indiscriminately, now must remain vigilant, heads held high and constantly on the move.

Aspen and willow, under less pressure from elk, recovered in the park. Likewise, Ripple said, he noticed a change in the landscape along streams. More trees and shrubs grew along the streams, which gave cover to small mammals and homes to beavers, which, in turn, created stream habitat for fish.

The phenomenon is called “trophic cascade,” in which the presence of a top predator creates an effect that cascades downward through the food chain. Open spaces, like mountain meadows, for example, began to fill in again with trees and shrubs, said Cristina Eisenberg, another of Ripple’s former graduate students and author of a book, “The Wolf’s Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity.”

Eisenberg said a meadow outside her home, a place where her family held picnics, since wolves returned has changed from close-cropped grass to trees and shrubs.

Wolves and humans

Catching sight of a wolf may be more difficult.

Wolves tend to avoid people but create conflict with them when they attack livestock animals and pets. Attacks on people, however, are rare. Eisenberg said she raised two children in wolf county without a worry.

“As a wolf biologist, I’ve been collaring wolves for several years, and have had hundreds of encounters,” she said. “I’ve not felt any threat; not once have I felt any kind of threat.”

In Minnesota, where wolves began a comeback in the 1970s, no wolf attacks on humans have been recorded in modern times, said Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “There have been some incidents where they’ve documented some contact, but I think they’re pretty much explained by interaction with dogs,” he said.

Minnesota’s northern third holds the highest density of wolves in the Lower 48 states, 3,000 wolves over 35,000 square miles, Stark said. Much of it is forested public land that is logged, he said. Minnesota, unlike Oregon, does not have livestock grazing on public lands.

“We have estimates that there are maybe 7,000 farms, livestock producers, within wolf range,” Stark said. About 100 livestock animals, mostly calves, are eaten each year by Minnesota wolves. In response, the government removes 150-200 wolves annually, he said.

Wolf numbers are regulated in nature by the numbers of available prey animals, which are in turn regulated by the numbers of wolves in their environment, Eisenberg said. “It’s a total fallacy” that wolves wipe out all game species like elk and deer. Game species are managed like food crops for hunters, in numbers much higher than existed before the frontier was tamed, she said.

Elk numbers will decline but eventually stabilize, Eisenberg said. They won’t stay the same, but will find a dynamic equilibrium, rising and falling in numbers like a wave.

“It happens if humans are not involved and we let wolves and elk do their thing,” she said.

Source

Dec 30

OR: Tribes formulate wolf policy

Confederation weighs cultural significance, modern views

By SAMANTHA TIPLER
East Oregonian Publishing Group

Like the state and federal governments, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation is preparing for the return of wolves to the Eastern Oregon landscape.

Wolves have a special place in American Indian culture, including the tribes on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, said Bobbie Conner, director of Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. Like the coyote, wolves are members of the canine family, as are dogs that were used as pack animals and for hunting long before horses came to America.

“Canines are an important part of our history,” Conner said. “The whole canine family has value and importance. They’re another part of creation. They have a right to be here.”

Wolves, like other animals, show up in old stories and even in petroglyphs. Along with cougars and bears, wolves are also relatives in creation beliefs, Conner said. Wolf is a common name on the reservation.

“The legacy continues in both English and Indian, in our own language and in borrowed language,” Conner said. “The carrying forth of the wolf name is evident.”

Even with this historical significance, defining the modern role of the wolf is never easy.

“A lot of people ask what the tribe thinks of wolves,” said Carl Scheeler, wildlife program manager in the confederated tribes’ Department of Natural Resources. “But I think it’s important to recognize that the tribal population as a whole has a wide range of views on wolves, just as the general population does.”

The confederated tribes have a wolf policy, but not a wolf plan. Its policy reflects how its wildlife commission has worked closely with state and federal parties on the wolf issue.

In a nutshell, the policy states the tribes support wolves moving into Oregon and tribal lands on their own rather than being reintroduced.

“One is an act of man the other is an act of wolf,” Scheeler said.

The policy is directed at both the 172,000-acre reservation lands in Eastern Oregon and the usual and accustomed areas, or places where tribal members hunt, fish and dig roots or pick berries. Scheeler said wolf scat and tracks have been spotted on the reservation, and wildlife staff and a member of the wildlife commission saw three wolves during a hunting party.

“We’re pretty sure we’ve got wolves on the reservation,” Scheeler said, “but the reservation boundaries are no boundaries to their movements.”

As a next step, the confederated tribes are working on a nuts-and-bolts strategy to deal with the possibility of wolf killing livestock on the reservation. Scheeler said it came in response to questions from the tribal public, and also in preparation as wolves become more common on the reservation.

While Scheeler speculated depredation is a big concern for a livestock operator, he guessed there will be varying levels of tolerance for the tribes. There have not been any reports of wolves killing livestock on the reservation.

The tribes’ policy also dictates wolves must be managed “in balance with other wildlife species, human health and safety needs and the overall public health of the region.”

Scheeler said this is likely an admission of the fact wolves are predators and have an effect on other species. Speaking as a biologist, and not to the policy itself, Scheeler said wolves can have a positive impact on the balance between predator and prey.

Wolves are coursing predators who run down their prey, unlike the ambush strategy of cougars, for instance, Scheeler said. Because of their hunting strategies, wolves will kill young calves, which most predators do, but also the slow and weak.

“All the predators take the young ones,” he said. “But it’s only the wolf that consistently takes the older and infirm.”

And that affects the overall herd.

An elk herd, for instance, not preyed upon by wolves may include older, less reproductive animals. But with wolves around, those weaker animals are killed off, allowing younger, more reproductive members of the herd to thrive.

“So the population becomes younger and more productive,” Scheeler said. “It may be a smaller population, but a more productive population.”

Wolves can also benefit smaller predators that feed on wolf-kill carcasses, especially in winter, Scheeler said.

“Their scavenging of wolf kills is very important to their overall health and vigor — everything from coyotes to mink, weasels, ravens, other scavengers,” Scheeler said.

Source

Dec 30

CA AB: Wandering young wolf killed by vehicle on highway near Canmore

BY TANYA FOUBERT, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD

CANMORE — A female wolf has been hit and killed by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway near Lac des Arcs.

Alberta park ecologist Melanie Percy said the smoky grey wolf was found Wednesday morning along the highway.

She said there was evidence the wolf had previously been wearing a GPS collar and for that reason it is believed she was part of the Bow Valley pack in Banff National Park.

The wolf had apparently been making its way east, but Percy noted that once past the park gates, the valley is a very difficult place for wolves to exist because of high levels of human use, particularly in the area where she was struck.

“That is a real pinch point for wildlife movement there,” she said. “Due to the natural and human-caused fragmentation, there is limited opportunity for movement.”

The section of highway at Lac des Arcs features the steep slopes of the geography, the body of water and four lanes of traffic squeezed in between.

Steve Michel, human wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park, said there is a high probability the wolf was an identifiable member of the pack, which ranges in the park between Lake Louise and Banff.

That wolf was born in the spring of 2010 and had a collar on it programmed to drop off in mid-December.

Michel said before she lost her collar, the wolf had been taking off on her own and spending more and more time away from the pack establishing her own territory, a process known as dispersal.

“We did not know where she had ended up until we heard about the mortality,” he said. “It was likely her first time in that area.”

He added the wolf, known as No. 1101, was already notorious for frequently getting onto the Trans-Canada Highway in the national park despite the wildlife exclusion fencing in place.

While another wolf that dispersed from the pack last year has established his own territory in Kananaskis Country, Michel said it is difficult to say what the female wolf’s future may have been and it is a loss for the ecosystem.

“Any time we have a large carnivore killed, particularly on the transportation corridor, it is a loss for the ecosystem of the Bow Valley,” he said.

“Unfortunately a great deal of wildlife in the Bow Valley don’t get to live a life where they die a natural death because of the frequency of human-caused mortality.”

However, Michel added that Parks Canada is working hard to reduce wildlife mortality and mitigate the causes.

Source

Dec 30

CA: Lone wolf crosses into California from Oregon

The young animal is the first wolf known to be at large in California since 1924. Wildlife authorities in both states have been monitoring the wolf since it set out from the Crater Lake area in September.

By Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times

A lone gray wolf that authorities have been tracking for months in southern Oregon crossed the state line into northern Siskiyou County earlier this week, becoming the first wolf known to be at large in California since 1924.

The radio collar on the young male, known to biologists as OR7, indicated the animal crossed into the state around noon Wednesday. Authorities say the animal is in “dispersal” mode, wandering the rugged California-Oregon border to define a home range and searching for other wolves to establish a pack.

“Whether one is for it or against it, the entry of this lone wolf into California is a historic event and result of much work by the wildlife agencies in the West,” said Department of Fish and GameDirector Charlton H. Bonham. “If the gray wolf does establish a population in California, there will be much more work to do here.”

Biologists caution that it’s too soon to know if the animal will stay in California. But because there is no known wolf presence in Northern California, they say, OR7 could very well return north to reunite with some of the 24 wolves believed to be in Oregon.

Wildlife authorities in both states have been monitoring the wolf’s peripatetic movements since September, when the 21/2-year-old set out from the Crater Lake area toward California. The young wolf, which frequently backtracked, had traveled nearly 800 miles by the end of November.

“He’s been moving erratically; we don’t know if he’s going to stay or going to go,” said Mark Stopher, an ecologist with the fish and game department. Stopher said wildlife officials are “excited and fascinated” by the movements of a member of a species that long ago had been driven out of California.

“I go to the Rockies every year, to Idaho,” Stopher said. “The place where I hunt has wolves. It’s really quite something to come across their tracks in the snow. It changes the air. It adds a wildness. This is why we are in this business.”

Despite the fascination they hold for many, wolves have long been unwelcome in much of the West. Ranchers and hunters led efforts that nearly eradicated the predator in the lower 48 states by the 1930s.

Wolves began to repopulate in northern Montana in the 1980s and the animal was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. In the mid-1990s, 66 Canadian wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.

As of last year, the Northern Rocky Mountain population had grown to an estimated 1,651 wolves. But that number is dropping in the wake of hunts approved in Montana and Idaho after Congress earlier this year removed endangered species protections over much of the population.

Source

Dec 29

CA: Wolf that trekked across Oregon now 10 miles from California border

By Matt Weiser

The wandering wolf that crossed the entire state of Oregon this fall is on the move again – and now even closer to California.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Wednesday reported that the wolf known as OR7 is now south of Keno, Ore., a town less than 10 miles from the California border along Highway 97. If OR7 keeps moving south, he could become the first gray wolf confirmed in California in more than 90 years.

“There is no way to predict if OR7 will actually cross into California,” Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the Oregon wildlife agency, said via email. “He could very well turn around and go right back to where he has been spending time in Klamath and Jackson counties the last month or so, or even back to northeast Oregon.”

The 2-year-old male wolf migrated 730 miles across Oregon over two months beginning in September. He had spent the past month in an area of the Siskiyou National Forest, northeast of Medford.

Such dispersals are normal for wolves as they reach adulthood and seek a mate and territory of their own.

The progress of OR7 marks another success in the reintroduction of wolves to the West, begun in 1995 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. OR7′s mother, in 2008, became the first wolf to return to Oregon after migrating from Idaho.

The California Department of Fish and Game has been preparing a planning document in case wolves do return to the state. That document is expected in January.

The gray wolf was exterminated in California, as in many other states, to eliminate a threat to livestock. The last known wolf in the state was killed by a trapper in Lassen County in 1924.

Though wolves still prey on livestock, biologists now recognize wolves also play an important role in managing deer and elk populations and, in turn, the health of the forests they live in.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October removed wolves from Endangered Species Act protection in most areas where they were reintroduced. Wolves dispersing into new areas are still protected by the act, however, including any that reach California.

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