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CA: California wolf travels into Oregon for first time; national implications on the line

By Jack Hirsh

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says a male wolf from the Lassen pack has made its way into Oregon.

This is the first confirmed instance of a wolf born in California dispersing to Oregon, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Designated as LAS13M when he was captured and radio-collared in California last spring, he traveled into Lake County in early October and has so far apparently has remained there, where he joins its population of around 160 wolves.

So what brings the sub-adult male here?

Center for Biological Diversity Senior West Coast Wolf Advocate Amaroq Weiss provided NewsChannel 21 with some answers Wednesday.

“Remember when you got to be an older teenager, and you left home?” Weiss said. “That’s what wolves do, too.”

Weiss has worked in wolf conservation for over 20 years. Her organization works to oversee the welfare of these iconic North American predators.

“When wolves get to be 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years old, it’s really common for them to leave their family pack,” Weiss said. “They go off looking for mates and territory of their own.”

She said although those in her field celebrate the potential for a diverse gene pool, this type of movement can also complicate the protection of these animals.

Back in 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law. The following year, gray wolves were a part of the first endangered species list.

That, however, could all change very soon.

Just last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to strip federal protections from gray wolves in the lower 48 states. They’re expected to finalize that rule as early as this week.

Wolves were nearly wiped out by the 1930s in North America, but their reappearance in the West has riled ranchers and livestock owners, among others.

According to Weiss, those in rural areas should not be concerned.

“Wolves rarely predate on livestock,” Weiss said. “Their preferred prey is deer, elk, moose, bison and caribou.”

But Weiss said recovery still has a long way to go, and the impending loss of federal protection could pose grave challenges to the future of wolves throughout the West.