By RICH GREENE-DN Staff Writer
There’s been no evidence California’s first gray wolf since 1924 OR-7 has killed any livestock, attacked a human or otherwise overstepped his welcome since he began visiting the state in December 2011, but that hasn’t stopped the California Department of Fish and Wildlife from creating a plan in case he does.
Northern Region Wildlife Program Manager Karen Kovacs gave an informational update Tuesday on OR- 7, now known as Journey, to the Tehama County Board of Supervisors focusing on the department’s efforts to coordinate the wants of conservation, agriculture and sportsmen groups.
In July the board formally opposed a petition that would list the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act and publicly stated it doesn’t want the animal reintroduced in Tehama County.
Gray wolves are listed under the federal act, but the state designation would add an extra level of protection.
The State Department is in the process of considering the petition, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering delisting the animal in some areas as it moves forward with reintroduction projects across the country.
Kovacs said no matter what results from those decisions it is important for the agencies to coordinate their information and get a head start by developing a management plan to deal with wolves in California.
Supervisor Burt Bundy praised the department for getting in front of the issue, including the Farm Bureau during its discussions, and said the wolf issue was already being handled better than mountain lions were.
The wolf can be a big impact here to us in Tehama County and I am concerned about that, Bundy said.
Journey first entered California in December 2011.
At first he spent most of his time in Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen and Shasta counties.
But in recent months he has moved further south to Plumas, Butte and Tehama counties.
Journey has been exclusively in Tehama since Jan. 9.
Kovacs said Journey has the capability of moving 25 air miles in a single day.
The wolf is outfitted with a GPS radio collar from when he was part of a reintroduction study in Oregon.
Trail cameras have been set up in several locations, but so far none have gotten a glimpse of the wolf.
Wildlife experts have been able to visit where Journey has been and have determined since entering California he has lived on a diet of deer, gray squirrel and deceased wild horses.
Kovacs said he has traveled across every type of habitat Northern California has to offer and across a multitude of land ownerships.
There have been no signs of any other wolf in California, although Kovacs said the department has received several reports from landowners.
She said in every case either a coyote or domestic dog was mistaken as a wolf. Wolf-hybrids, which are easy to obtain in California, may have led to some confusion.
Wildlife officials told the board it is unknown how large a wolf population California could even support.
Wolves in other states have a diet that mainly consists of elk, a species that is 10 times more abundant elsewhere.
California’s population is much greater than other states where gray wolves have been successfully reintroduced.
In May the U.S. and California wildlife services issued a Federal- State Coordination Plan to deal with gray wolf activity within the state.
The plan details how the agencies will share information in the wake of a variety of events from a wolf being captured or killed to notifying landowners of their presence.
A gray wolf stakeholders meeting presented by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is scheduled for Feb. 5 at UC Davis.
Kovacs said she did not expect a decision regarding the petition to list the gray wolf on the state level until the end of the year.