Saturday, February 22, 2014

San Diego Wildlife Advocates Prepare to Bring Back Mexican Wolves in California

A female Mexican wolf and pups.

It has recently been reported that the Mexican wolf population in the states of Arizona and New Mexico has increased to 83 individuals from 75 last year and just four in 1998. This significant growth has led to efforts from the California Wolf Center in San Diego County to bring back the wolves in the state. The group is preparing to restore Mexican wolves in California by urging state and federal conservation plans and educating the public. According to California Wolf Center director Lauren Richie, the purpose of this preparation is to prevent any conflicts with domestic livestock which would result in massive retaliation against wolves and would therefore hinder the conservation efforts intended to bring them back in areas where they had long disappeared. Earlier this month, Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, proposed to not list the gray wolf as an endangered species but as a species of special concern and that a ban be placed on killing of wolves in California. The department is expected to consider the recommendation and could act on it April. However, Ms. Richie stated that she is puzzled by the proposal because currently only one gray wolf called OR7 is roaming the California-Oregon border and believes that the Endangered Species List is required. In her own words, she stated that the department should use a lot of scientific data to make the decision of listing a species as "endangered" or not at the state level. In the case of wolves, there is not much scientific data because California does not have a wolf population. She further added that it is hard to predict how wolves would come, stating that it depends on the habitat and prey base available for them. Nonetheless, she is determined and confident that the California Wolf Center is paving way for wolves to come back into the state regardless of what the protections are because they believe it is unavoidable and they view being proactive is positive regardless of what the legal status is.
A map of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.

It is absolutely amazing to see that the Mexican wolf population in the United States has increased to a significant figure, which is crucial to its recovery. Even more exciting is that notable groups like the California Wolf Center is preparing to bring these magnificent animals back into the state, where it must have thrived before disappearing. The Mexican wolf historically roamed throughout much of the American Southwest, including California. I very much hope that the center and its members will be able to achieve their goal in bringing wolves back into California through public education and urging state and federal conservation plans. These animals were a dominant species alongside the puma, and significantly maintained the populations of prey species in California. In recent times, there have been reports of a wolf called OR7 roaming the California-Oregon border which has raised hopes among wildlife groups. However, there have also been reports about keeping wolves off the Endangered Species List primarily because their overall populations have reached to such an extent that it makes them ideal for human hunters to target them. This action should not be implemented without significant scientific data indicating whether wolves should be kept as endangered species or not. Mexican wolves, whose numbers have reached 83 in the wild, are still a critically endangered species and any killing of them would drastically affect the conservation efforts aimed at repopulating them in areas where they had long been eradicated. Furthermore, northern California once had a significant population of wolves and with the appearance of OR7, it should be noted that wolves would probably return to recolonize areas where they once roamed depending on the habitat and the available prey. It is simply the question of being on the lookout and acting upon the arrival of wolves in northern California. Meanwhile, it is extremely important to be educated about the significance of these animals and call for federal and state conservation plans for them regardless of what their legal status is.

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