Wolf, © Ron Paul

Why Are the Feds Giving Up on Wolf Recovery in California?

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEO

Ten years ago, the idea of gray wolves in California was a faraway dream. At the time, there were fewer than 1,000 wolves across the entire western United States—most of them safely tucked away in the forests of central Idaho, northwest Montana and Yellowstone National Park.

Wolf OR7 gained national attention when spotted in California - the only wolf in the state, despite a great deal of suitable habitat.

Wolf OR7 gained national attention when spotted in California – the only wolf in the state, despite a great deal of suitable habitat.

Since then we’ve seen wolves reclaim more of their former habitat. At the end of last year, there were nearly 2,000 wolves in the West, including almost 100 wolves in the eastern portions of Washington and Oregon. Miraculously, at the very end of 2011, a lone male wolf even crossed into California. The wolf, known officially as OR-7 and nicknamed “Journey,” was the first wolf to set foot in the state since the 1940s.

OR-7 lingered for just over a year before returning to Oregon. Yet his presence in California stirred the imagination of wolf advocates and the fears of wolf haters alike. The possibility of wild wolves once again roaming northern California suddenly became very real. As a result, California Department of Fish and Wildlife started making plans in case more wolves return.

But the chance of wolves permanently returning and surviving in California is quickly diminishing. In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its intention to abandon wolf recovery across most of the lower 48, including eliminating federal Endangered Species Act protections for any wolves that arrive in the Golden State. Without federal resources and support, it’s questionable whether California will be able to sustain long-term recovery efforts for this important missing part of its natural heritage.

Who cares if wolves ever return to California? According to a recent poll, 69% of Californians support restoring wolves to suitable habitat in their state. Importantly, 80% of respondents also agreed that wolves should continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act until they are fully recovered.

That’s because Californians understand the potential benefits that wolves can bring to the ecosystems they inhabit. In the same poll, seventy-three percent agreed that wolves play an important role in maintaining healthy elk and deer populations and that restoring wolves to forests and wilderness areas will bring a healthier balance to the ecosystem.

gray wolf yellowstone

Gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park (© Sandy Sisti)

This has certainly been the case in places like Yellowstone National Park where the return of wolves has brought a number of positive environmental changes. Wolves keep elk and deer on the move and away from sensitive river areas where streamside vegetation had been destroyed by decades of over-browsing. Now, aspen, willow and cottonwood trees are flourishing in creek bottoms in Yellowstone National Park, providing additional food, shelter and shade for beavers, songbirds and fish.

But there’s more to wolves than just filling a vital ecological niche. For many, this iconic species represents the very essence of the wild — that which cannot be controlled and keeps us humble as human beings at a time when our dominion over the planet is nearly absolute. That’s why 83% of Californians agree that wolves should be protected in the state and are a vital part of America’s wilderness and heritage.

Wildlife conservation and protecting our precious natural resources must be guided first and foremost by sound science, rather than by political convenience. So when 16 of our nation’s top biologists wrote a letter in May, questioning FWS’ decision to abandon wolf recovery, it should give us all pause. Why is the federal government so anxious to throw in the towel?

We did not stop fighting for bald eagles until they were soaring in the skies from coast to coast. We did not quit protecting American alligators until they once again occupied suitable habitat from Texas to Carolina. And we shouldn’t abandon wolves when they only occupy less than 10 percent of their historic range and about a third of currently suitable habitat nationwide.

I think we can do better. On Oct. 2 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting a public hearing in Sacramento to hear what Californians think about the federal delisting proposal. Please consider attending the hearing to voice your support for continued wolf recovery. This is one of only three public hearings nationwide and the only one on the West Coast — perhaps our last chance to make a difference and ensure that having wolves in California doesn’t become a forgotten dream.

Originally published in the Sacramento Bee 

Want to speak out for wolves? Click here for information about the public hearings, and how to submit your comments. 

Categories: Gray Wolf

50 Responses to “Why Are the Feds Giving Up on Wolf Recovery in California?”

  1. Frank Wolf, PhD

    I intend to be present in Sacramento tomorrow, and speak in favor of re-listing the wolf, if time permits.
    My concern, however, is whether or not there will be a public hearing with the now in progress shut-down of the federal government due to congress not approving the latest fiscal budget.
    Is the hearing still on schedule?

  2. linda allen

    Is nothing in this world important to you? All creatures on earth are precious. Get a grip.

  3. Thomas Martin

    I believe Californians will protect the wolf via state policy because it is the public will. The Red states are the ones that seem hell bent to kill all the wolves and other wildlife. It seems to me as if the feds have gone “local control” on wolf policy and are letting the states enact their own control over wildlife unless a particular species is endangered. Thank you, California.

  4. Rebecca Hessinger

    I cannot read this anymore. I become severely depressed. People in California are crazy anyway. How many are still looking for Bigfoot? We are becoming a nation of blood thirsty, hateful people.People just like to kill. Ask any NRA member. I quit. I just can’t take anymore. Good luck to all.

  5. Oliver Craig

    I think it will be a crying shame if the wolf is once again hunted to extinction in the
    USA , and if you go down this road future generations of Americans will hold you
    to account for this.
    Regards Oliver craig

  6. Faith Johnson

    I think we should try to preserve wildlife as much as possible..instead of destroying it like mankind is destroying our living environment.

  7. Sandra Defrates

    These much maligned creatures need our protection as their populations
    strive to fight back from near extinction…now is not the time to give up!!!

  8. Dan madden

    Please stop the insanity. Humans share the land with wolves. We are caretakers not owners.

  9. Laura Lemmons

    Please protect these animals. They deserve life like we do. If you strip the protection and stop helping and caring for them, there WILL be some angry US citizens out there.

  10. Patricia Gauthier

    The FWS must not abandon wolf recovery. The Wolf should not be delisted, but re-listed so that wolves have a chance to really recover and take their place in the natural ecosystem.

  11. Michael Guest

    What you think you’re doing? I am disappointed about the proposal removal to the wolves. Don’t you realize that you are affecting wildlife? Well, I insist that the wolves stay protected everywhere. I am not abandoning on wolves, and neither should you. Take action to save the wolves before it’s too late.

  12. Richard and Janet Dankert

    We need to preserve these magnificent and intelligent ancestors of our dogs. Why the rush to kill them when their recovery is not complete? To give in to the pro-hunting crowd???????????

  13. Jeanne Brenneman

    Wolves are a key part of a healthy ecosystem and we have come close to exterminating them in this country. Scientific studies have shown that eliminating them is a terrible mistake. We have finally started to right that wrong and we need to continue to support them until they have made a full recovery. They need pack stability and room to disperse to make a full recovery. They won’t be able to it without protection. We don’t have the right to kill off any species on the earth.

  14. Tricia Hamilton

    California won’t let anyone sign petitions for them unless it will benefit them. So on that note California… next time there is a fire or you need something from other states think about what you did. You are Freaks!!



  16. Gilles Dubois

    Hard for me to believe that in a lot of books we see wolfs attacking people… in new films, wolfs killing and eating children… Where all these stupids writers and movies makers take there informations ? Wolfs NEVER attack people.

  17. Virginia

    Gray wolf recovery is not complete. This decision could derail wolf recovery efforts in areas around the country where it has barely begun — in places like the Pacific Northwest and in states that possess some of the nation’s best unoccupied wolf habitat, such as northern California, Colorado, and Utah.

    Delisting would prematurely turn wolf management over to the states. We’ve already seen what can happen when rabid anti-wolf politics are allowed to trump science and core wildlife management principles.

    Montana, Wyoming and Idaho — where wolves have already been delisted — are not managing wolves like other wildlife such as elk, deer, and bears. Instead they’re intending to drive the wolves’ population numbers back down to the bottom.

    Other species, such as the bald eagle, American alligator and peregrine falcon, were declared recovered and delisted when they occupied a much larger portion of their former range. Wolves deserve the same chance at real recovery.

  18. Jeanne Musto

    Once gone, they-re gone forever, and our children and their children will ask “shy?”. The Bible says we should take care of all the creatures of the earth.

  19. vienne

    Animals were put on this earth for a reason…..and it is NOT so man kind can destroy for their own greed and selfishness. God has a beautiful plan for them. Leave natures children to Mother Nature….man needs to concentrate in bettering humanity. Stay out of the Mothers Way…


  20. Margie Borchers

    These beautiful creatures do not deserve to be hunted down and killed. They need to be protected so that their meager numbers can grow. We need to bring wolves back to CA.

  21. Barbara Evans

    Hands off the wolves!!! God in his wisdom put them on earth for a reason. That fact that man wants to kill them for their pleasure is too horrendous to contemplate. Are we to be known as the generation that killed off an entire species for a few “sport” hunters? Shame on you and shame on the American people if we let you get away with killing all of these magnificent animals. THEY ARE TO BE PROTECTED, NOT KILLED!!!!!

  22. Anne Snudden

    Wolves are a beloved part of American natural history and a vital part of a healthy ecosystem. They—and we—need their continued protection until their numbers are fully restored.

  23. J Walters

    Why do we constantly have rules changing. It was decided to reinstate the wolf and now once again, delisting. Who is initiating the change and why do we always have to defend it. The decision was made to reinstate,period.

  24. Diane Smith

    Please protect the wolves so they will prosper in California, Oregon and any state where they once lived. They are loved by many!

  25. Nancy Clark

    Why did we save wolves in Yellowstone in the first place? Just to delist them now, years later, and start to kill all of them all over again? This defies all logic to me.

  26. Alexander

    Every wildlife has a feeling and emotional no matter how bad reputation it have, it still part we live with living things side by side. We must protect the american wolves at all cost until the very end of our dying breath.

  27. the eye of justice

    The wolf is an amazing, beautiful animal, and there are so many reasons they need to be here. If one wants to argue that, you better put on your seatbelt, because your fight will begin with God’s will – and hello, He is OMNIPOTENT. I have see this creature in several species almost become extinct when I was a kid, and now they are at it again!!! When is humankind ever going to stop with the greed, cruelty and bloodlust? it makes me sick…and maybe we should leave the innocents alone and go trapping for the legislators, poachers, ranchers and trappers who seem to always want to destroy something innocent and blessed by lifting this protection to these, and a million other, species.

  28. Sharon Latta

    You know, it’s times like this that I am ashamed to say I am a human. As humans, we have control over what happens to wildlife. Not too many years down the road we will be asking each other, where did all the wolves go? We will only have ourselves to blame for not helping them out at a time when we could have.

  29. Vicki

    I have a 95% wolf sheppard and she looks like a gray wolf. So for her sake and mine we want to keep the wolves re-listed and balance out our eco-system. They manage all of this wild life like one that herds other wildlife and keeps everyone balanced….in mind and spirit….Save the wolves and re-list them…

  30. janny vogel

    All animals have a right to be here, leave them alone. Instead outlaw guns.

  31. Angie Unruh

    So much has been said about the historical and ongoing cruelty to, and destruction of the wolf, that it is difficult to add more. But there is a human myth about the danger that wolves pose to man, built upon for hundreds of years; I would like to know where it started, but it MUST be destroyed. Then there are humans who simply delight in extreme torture and destruction of all animals, especially wolves. Thirdly, those who raise livestock have bought the myth mentioned above, and they refuse to use the multiple protections offered to them to protect their animals against most predators; these include a type of guard dog, to keep wolves at bay; a technique called “fladry”, that is, posting flags on places such as fences that scare wolves away, etc. Whether they are of a mindset that refuses to have solutions pushed upon them, or whether they are just lazy, one does not know. Personally, I believe that the US Fish and Wildlife has been bought off by ultra conservatives who only just want to populate the land with any means to extract fossil fuels from the ground, a lot of which is occurring in areas in the west which are perfect for the reintroduction of the wolf. It seems that there are so many strikes against those of us who warrior for these beautiful and intelligent animals, that the battle seems almost lost, but WE MUST FIGHT ON. Possibly the best way to stop all of this nonsense is to do our best to educate our youth in the necessity to bring balance to all of nature, but especially to support wolf recovery, as wolves are the ones who have such a horrible fight to just subsist. Their value to the world environment cannot be questioned! They are very highly intelligent and very supportive of their families. That is more than I can say for a lot of humans I know. And, if you don’t learn anything else about wolves, understand that they are not a threat to humans, especially in their natural habitat.

  32. Philip Ratcliff

    Let’s hope that California shows some sanity,and the gray wolf can enter the state and thrive. The rednecks who hate wolves can go live in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, where wolves are shot on sight. California can do better.

  33. Karen Ouse

    Animals are the Earth’s teachers, including wolves. We could learn a lot about how to work together as a group if we paid attention to the sophistication of a wolf pack. We could learn how to eat economically and efficiently. We could learn how to play–in the snow, with each other! And what will we learn from them if we destroy them as a species? We will prove that we really aren’t interested in educating ourselves or having a relationship with the planet. Will we learn to trust no humans.

  34. Shirley Cooper

    “the fear of wolf haters”???? What’s the matter with you people? You have guns and are just itching to use them. Unfortunately, the big bad wolf is the target. What will farmers do when they get overrun with rodents, deer, rabbits, etc etc etc. Think very carefully of what you’re doing BEFORE you pull that trigger – it may come back to kick you in the ass!

  35. Heather

    Why Delist them in the first place.
    These beautiful animals have roamed this beautiful planet for thousands of years and are necessary for the ecosystem.
    They keep rodents down and many unwanted pests.
    Please Re-list them before it is too late and they are all killed.

  36. Kris Aaron

    Killing off the natural predators leads to imbalances. We have hordes of deer fighting each other for food and over running people’s backyards because the wolves and mountain lions that used to cull their numbers are nearly gone. With sharks nearly gone the balance of the oceans is disturbed, with prey fish destroying coral reefs, for instance, looking for enough to eat. Even if you care nothing for these creatures, and could care less if they go extinct, think about the imbalances that will harm the natural balance of the world, which we are a part of. We cannot do this indefinitely without consequences. People lining up to take a shot at a nearly extinct animal so they can brag about the trophy really are short sighted.

  37. Martha

    Gray wolf recovery is not complete. This decision could derail wolf recovery efforts in areas around the country where it has barely begun — in places like the Pacific Northwest and in states that possess some of the nation’s best unoccupied wolf habitat, such as northern California, Colorado, and Utah.

    Delisting would prematurely turn wolf management over to the states. We’ve already seen what can happen when rabid anti-wolf politics are allowed to trump science and core wildlife management principles.

    Montana, Wyoming and Idaho — where wolves have already been delisted — are not managing wolves like other wildlife such as elk, deer, and bears. Instead they’re intending to drive the wolves’ population numbers back down to the bottom.

    Other species, such as the bald eagle, American alligator and peregrine falcon, were declared recovered and delisted when they occupied a much larger portion of their former range. Wolves deserve the same chance at real recovery.

  38. Kathie

    Wolves are magnificent, beautiful animals that God created. Who are we to destroy them? Wolves deserve to live, not be delisted.

  39. Dani Duran

    We need wolves to be an integral part of our Eco system!
    This animal is an American Treasure and should be fought for and protected.
    They are not a food source and the only reason to kill them would be for kill crazy hunters to have fun!
    Less then 1% of livestock has ever been lost because of wolves. The ranchers are reimbursed for any loss no matter how rare the occasion by animal rights groups.
    The wolves are extremely intelligent and stay as far away from man as possible!

  40. Marvin J.Sheffield, D.V.M.

    To:- Director Dan Ashe, USFWS,
    Since when is the US Fish and Wildlife Service the sole purview of the psychotic wolf haters and the extremists in the cattlemen’s and the elk hunters lobby?? Your personelle can do a fine job when you want to, as you managed for the recovery of The Black Footed Ferret.
    As a former Federal and multi-State Wildlife Veterinarian, I am angered over your obvious ignoring of multiple scientific studies of the benefits to an ecosystem from the presence of Gray Wolves, an important Keystone Species. These studies have been undertaken by many qualified Biologists. Just what is it that you refuse to understand about a Keystone Species which the Gray Wolf is? Or are you being reimbursed privately to pander to the demands of the Cattlemen and elk hunters? I could quote chapter and verse for you exposing the often secret and felonius behavior of both of these groups of men. This could be extremely embarrassing and discrediting to your agency, which is supposed to make decisions that are fair and just proper for the species involved, To pander to the demands of the cattlemen and elkhunters, plus the psychotic wolf haters; while ignoring the importance of testimony of qualified biologists certainly is highly suspicious. The economy of motels, restaurants, has boomed in the Yellowstone area, due to the opportunity for tourists, naturalists, to see and photograph wolves in the Lamar sector. But more important is the need to keep this magnificent wild canid from becoming extinct, if they are not placed under the Endangered Species Act protection immediately. The Rocky Mountain and other States are a total loss out when it comes to providing protection for this Keystone Species. Federal protection is what the gray wolves deserve, and should be placed under ASAP. PLease use your judgement wisely, and do not permit extremists to cause the loss of this important American species.

  41. Mike Meister


    Sad to think that Wolves are being hunted in part to save a non-native and invasive species such as the cow, an animal that is not suited to life in the Northern Plains and Mountains. Most of the bovine fatalities occur because of Exposure to the Elements, malnutrition, sickness or attacks by dogs.

  42. rick wagner

    Whoa there on the hunters! I am a hunter, and there is not a more vocal proponent of intact ecosystems anywhere. Prey animals evolved with predators. That is why they multiply so fast. Without predators, there is species bottleneck. I do not want to hunt on a game farm, I want to hunt in the real world. This is not a fluffy animal rights situation. It is science. If we ignore it, we do so at our own peril. And don’t just tote sign at the protest. Use your shovel and improve the land, like I do. Plant the natives, that the natives might thrive. The bottom of the food chain, the plants and all, is where the top of the food chain gets sustenance. Don’t just talk. Do!

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