Grey Wolves Struggling to Make a Return to California?

Renewed interest by the California Fish and Game Commission to consider their reintroduction has recently surfaced

By Isaiah Jurado

Source: Landskonferansen. Taral Jansen. 2010

Source: Landskonferansen. Taral Jansen. 2010

Across the rugged landscape of Northern California near the Oregon border, a single grey wolf was spotted a few years ago. Traversing the vast foreign landscape in solitude, he has been greeted with open arms, and threats of death.

The grey wolf has not been present in California since 1924, when the last one was killed and an era of unworried grazing for cattleman and their cattle was ushered in. But now with their presence slowly being reestablished, the California Fish and Game Commission will consider granting the wolf the best legal protection a state can offer to an animal; the status of an endangered species.

While some are excited to see the reintroduction of this proud animal with state endorsement, ranchers may hold a different opinion.

They argue that the reintroduction of wolves would be detrimental to their cattle. Under the endangered species status, ranchers believe they would be helpless in defending their livestock. Although this may have some validity, the situation is not as black and white as ranchers make it out to be.

Of course it would be easier to simply kill off animals that may interfere with our business goals as we have done in the past, but in doing so we create an unbalanced ecosystem furthered by irrational thinking. Websites such as Trap Free Oregon are dedicated to eliminating the idea that “less predators equals more livestock” that some ranchers use to justify killing of predators like coyotes, mountain lions and wolves. They point out that ranchers also fail to recognize the many different variables that affect the growth of their livestock such as the prices of hay, weather conditions and even poor mating cycles. It is also true that unregulated killing of predators can result in overpopulation of prey like rabbits and deer that eventually begin to spread into the city.

Addressing the problem conscientiously, organizations like Defenders of Wildlife recognize the importance of preserving life on both ends, and are committed to providing alternative nonviolent methods in reducing conflict. They understand that the killing of wolves does not solve the problem at its core and in doing so ranchers only temporarily alleviate attacks. The best route as described by the Defenders of Wildlife is to use many different nonviolent methods in order to create an atmosphere where wolves understand that they are not welcomed.

We as a society have grown increasingly aware of our environmental effects especially regarding the welfare of animals and that very fact alone is a sign of hope. Seventy years ago this issue would have been solved with a rifle and without a second thought. Whether the wolves will pose a serious harm to our ecosystem or provide it with stability is uncertain. All that is certain is that we cannot ignore the environmental impacts we have made due to the importance we place on business and innovation. As for the fate of that forlorn wolf roaming on the border, it is still to be decided.

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