CA Officials Suspect First Wolf Depredation Incident in 100 Years


Wolves are back in California, and as ranchers feared, they appear to have begun taking a toll on livestock. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently released its first-ever report on a possible wolf depredation incident, something the state has not seen for over 100 years.

In the investigation, officials say they suspect that a calf killed in Siskiyou County last month may have been eaten by a wolf pack.

“The report classified this incident as ‘probable.’ That is, there is some evidence to suggest wolf predation of livestock involving at least one animal,” the department said in a press release.

According to the report, which had been edited to remove the name of the livestock owner and the location of the ranch, the calf was found on November 10 by several employees of the ranch on horseback. Witnesses claimed they saw five wolves feeding on the calf at the time, but the animals moved away when they approached. The remains of the calf were photographed and collected for evidence. Fish and Wildlife investigator Richard Callas and Scott Stiles from the USDA Wildlife Services arrived on the property the next day to examine whether the attack had indeed been committed by wolves.

“At approximately 0530 hours, Scott Stiles and Richard Callas arrived at the meadow where the calf carcass was found the previous day and parked approximately 0.20 miles southeast of the carcass site,” reads the report. “Mr. Stiles played a recording of a single wolf howling. Within several seconds, multiple wolves vocalized from across the meadow.”

The investigators then played recordings of wolves, wolf pups, and rabbit calls. At least one of the wolves neared within 100 yards of the two men, and an hour later, the investigators counted three black wolves on the eastern edge of the meadow. The carcass of an adult cow was also found later on.

Judging by the damage to the calf’s remains and the presence of wolves nearby, officials concluded that it was a probable wolf attack. Experts were unable to determine whether the adult cow was also a victim of depredation, although it is probable that the wolves fed on it too. It is very likely that the wolves seen by the investigators belong to the only wolf pack known to exist in the state: the predominately black-colored Shasta Pack. Wildlife officials confirmed the pack’s existence this August after trail cameras captured footage of the wolves wandering through Siskiyou County. The wolves are believed to have come from Oregon.

Wolf depredation is something that livestock owners have long feared, but until very recently, no wolves have ever been confirmed in California. Regardless, in June 2014 the California Fish and Game Commission voted to list gray wolves as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act, making it illegal to harass or harm wolves in the state. With the confirmation of the state’s wolf pack, ranchers, hunters, and animal advocates met with officials to produce the first draft of a wolf conservation plan, which was released earlier this month.

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