Wolves killed two calves during separate Lassen County incidents this month in what wildlife officials are calling the largest wolf attack on livestock since the predators returned to California.
The yearling cattle were killed by wolves on private land in western Lassen County, and three other cattle were found with tooth scrapes and other injuries, according to investigative reports from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A ranch hand discovered the first attack July 13 after spotting “a wolf feeding on the carcass of an approximately 550-pound yearling cow,” which was reported to state and federal officials, a state report said.
State wildlife officials came across the second attack the next day, finding an “approximately 600-pound yearling cow … in a pasture with open wounds in the abdominal area and rakes on the right rear leg,” according to the report in the later attack. That incident was reported to the livestock producer and a ranch hand discovered the injured calf dead on July 15.
State officials said in a July 23 news release confirming both wolf attacks that they appreciate “the enormous challenges associated with living with such an iconic species of predator and the impacts that are suffered by the owner of the calves.”
Just two years ago, wolves from the Lassen Pack — which has taken hold in northeastern California — killed a cow in the state for the first time in more than a century, the Sacramento Bee reported at the time. Before returning in recent years, the endangered gray wolf had disappeared from California, likely in the 1920s, according to state wildlife officials.
Environmentalists have cheered as the gray wolves return to their historic habitat in the state, the Bee reported, but the predators’ return hasn’t been welcomed by ranchers whose herds are threatened by the animals.
State officials seem to be cognizant of that dynamic.
“This represents the largest depredation event by wolves thus far since the return of wolves to the state,” wildlife officials said July 23, adding that the department “is aware of the damage that wolves can cause to cattle producers, not only in the deceased animals, but in resources spent on exclusion and additional stress to the herd. After the depredations, the producer moved the herd quickly preventing further attacks.”
The department promised to “continue to bring the best available management practices to work with the agricultural communities and local leaders throughout current wolf range to deter conflict to the extent possible.”
In the first reported attack in July, state officials said the evidence a wolf was responsible included wounds on the cow “consistent with those typically found when wolves attack livestock,” as well as reports that “a breeding female of the Lassen Pack was observed feeding on the carcass.”
In the second attack, state officials said the cow carcass had wounds that suggested a predator attack and the three injured cattle had wounds consistent with bites.
“The location and nature of the wounds on the carcass and on the injured yearlings were consistent with those typically found when wolves attack livestock,” officials wrote in their report, adding that “the carcass and the injured animals were found in an area frequented by the Lassen Pack.”
State officials said the first wolf attack happened about 600 yards from the second.
An “upcoming local stakeholder outreach” discussion is planned to talk about the attacks and “next steps for living with wolves in the state,” according to state officials.