First Wolf Sighted in California Since 1924

Published February 10, 2012

A gray wolf crossed south of the Oregon-California border this winter, marking the first time a wolf has been sighted in the Golden State since 1924. According to federal wildlife managers, the predator is ranging along the California-Oregon border hoping to define a home territory and searching for other wolves to form a pack.

Rex Houghton, president of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau in California, describes the region as rural and very isolated. With plenty of open space, available food, and distance from human population centers, the region is conducive to an expanding wolf population. Whether or not that happens may depend on whether this initial wolf can find a mate.

The wolf first entered California through Siskiyou County and then went through the town of Macdoel. Since then the wolf has traversed several nearby counties.

“We’ve got mixed feelings,” Houghton said. “Obviously, our ancestors got rid of them. No one wants them to kill their livestock. Obviously, farmers think they ought to have the right to protect their herds. We’d prefer the wolves were up in Montana—we don’t need them here in California.”

Jack Hanson, a rancher from nearby Lassen County, agreed.

“There’s a little irony in the wolf coming through Lassen County—that’s where the last one was shot in 1924,” he noted.

The reintroduction of a predator into the area is of concern to ranchers like Hanson because if the wolf populations get large enough it could take a toll on his herds.

“One wolf is not a concern for the farmers and ranchers of northern California. However, if enough were introduced, we’d need a plan to manage them to prevent any depredation,” Hanson explained.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.