The Gray Wolf, native to North America, once populated much of California. But by the 1930’s the species was extirpated in most of the lower 48 states, with remnant populations remaining in the Great Lakes region and the Northern Rocky Mountains. In the Southwest, there were only five Mexican Gray Wolves. In the 1960’s, wolves, under the protection of a precursor to the Endangered Species Act, started making a comeback.
Recently, as the packs have expanded, one young male named OR-7 crossed the Oregon border into California with the potential of re-populating the state. In order to protect this lone wolf, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the Gray Wolf as an endangered species in California on June 4, 2014.
Wolves and the Ecosystem
Wolves provide a essential checks and balances on the ecosystem, controlling prey populations, such as elk and deer. Keeping prey species in check is helpful to the survival of a significant number of organisms, including plants, fish, and amphibians! One of the most remarkable examples of how important the wolf is can be seen with the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. The video below does an amazing job telling this story.
Wolves and People
Unfortunately, it is still rare to encounter a wolf in the wild. Wolves have come to fear humans and usually steer clear. According to Amaroq Weiss, West Coast Organizer for Wolves with the Center of Biological Diversity, in the last hundred years, in all of North America, there have only been two instances of human fatalities caused by wolves; one in which wolves were confirmed to have killed an individual in Alaska and another in Canada. However, the Canadian situation remains questionable as to whether wolves or a bear was responsible.
Wolves and Cattle
While wolves can sometimes prey on cattle, they are responsible for only .2% of all cattle losses.
Additional Information about wolves can be found at the following sources: