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Wolf depredations spike in NorCal county

U.S. Forest Service WFP-USFS-wolves-1022.jpg
A gray wolf drinks from a trough in Northern California.
As wolves migrate from Oregon, Siskiyou County ranchers have seen more encounters.

The southern migration of gray wolves from Oregon has hit one of California’s northernmost counties the hardest.

In Siskiyou County, which abuts Oregon, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed four recent cattle depredations, including at least two at the same ranch.

The ranch on the county’s eastern edge found depredations Oct. 18 and Oct. 21, state officials confirmed. Even with foxlights in place after the first kill, Siskiyou County wildlife specialists confirmed a yearling was killed by wolves three days later.

Wolf tracks were present, and the location suggests the Whaleback Pack is responsible for the Oct. 21 depredation, the California Cattlemen’s Association noted in a legislative bulletin.

To avoid further loss, two producers monitored their cattle overnight and chased off nine wolves circling a cow and calf around 4:20 a.m. on Oct. 23, the CCA reported. The calf involved was later found dead and confirmed to be a wolf kill.

On Nov. 9, ranch hands nearby discovered a 650-pound calf carcass with large external tooth rakes and muscle hemorrhages consistent with wolf attacks, according to CCA. Ranch employees reported this to CDFW and Siskiyou County Wildlife specialists confirmed the calf was killed by wolves early that morning. The CDFW did not identify the ranches involved.

State officials also investigated several other reports of cattle deaths which were determined to be by non-wolf predators, according to CCA.

The increase in incidents underscores the fact that wolves are now firmly established in California more than a decade after OR-7 famously wandered in from Oregon, becoming the first known wild gray wolf in the Golden State since 1924. Relatives of OR-7 later formed two packs in Northern California, and other wolves have migrated into the region, according to wildlife officials.

Legal battle

The latest interactions come as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other farm groups are intervening in the case Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and defend former President Donald Trump’s delisting of the gray wolf. The case is before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In February, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prematurely removed federal ESA protections for gray wolves in most of the lower 48 states in recent years. The decision restored protections for thousands of wolves, however, ranchers said the action was not driven by the data showing wolves have exceeded recovery goals by over 300%.

Regardless of their federal status, gray wolves are still protected in California, making it illegal to kill or wound them or even to shoo them away. The state has created a nonlethal wolf deterrent program that includes funds to reimburse ranchers when wolves attack their livestock.

The CCA urges affected ranchers to fill out the survey on the CDFW Gray Wolf web page to report evidence of wolf presence, including sightings or wolf signs.

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