The California Fish and Game Commission determined Wednesday that listing the gray wolf as an endangered species in the state may be warranted and declared it a candidate for future listing consideration.
The decision opens a status review to be done over the course of the next 12 months, after which the Commission could decide to list the wolf as an endangered species under state law.
“We have very little information on the history and status of wolves in California,” said Michael Sutton, Vice President of the Fish & Game Commission. “Our decision today launches a year-long effort to learn more, which in turn will inform our ultimate decision whether or not to protect this iconic species under California law.”
Last December, a lone wolf known as OR7 dispersed to California from a pack in northeastern Oregon and has been in the state for most of the time since then.
Gray wolves such as OR7 are protected as an endangered species in California under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The petition to list wolves as an endangered species under California state law was filed in February by four environmental groups. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reviewed the petition and other relevant information and recommended the commission make a finding that a listing may be warranted.
There has never been a scientific study conducted on wolves in California. And although there are numerous anecdotal reports of wolves in early California, there is little direct evidence of these wolves beyond two museum specimens – one of a gray wolf and the other likely a Mexican wolf.
DFG believes it is likely the wolves were once widely distributed across California before they were extirpated by humans in the early 20th Century.
The vote was 3-0. Commissioners Dan Richards and Jim Kellogg were not present.
More information about OR7 is available here: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/wolf/
Image courtesy California Department of Fish and Game