A small new wolf pack has formed in northern California. This pack, known as the Beckworth pack has established itself in Pumas county. The pack consists of a 2 year old female wolf born in California and two others.
This is only the third wolf pack to establish itself in California in the last century. California and their authorities have been heavily supportive of the recovery of wolves in the west of the USA and have publicly decried decisions made by its neighbours – moves which make wolves returning to the endangered list a significant possibility.
One of the other wolves undertook the longest tracked journey by a wolf in the last century. It started in Oregon cut through the Sierra Nevada and through California’s far north, finally settling in the central valley.
In January, the Trump administration made it clear that science and reason were not guiding principles by removing all protections. In May Idaho enacted a law which allows 90% of its wolves to be targeted by hunters! No one could argue that this in in line with long term survival or indeed keeping balance in the ecosystem. Montana has similarly signed a bill which reimburses hunters for their costs (he has in the past been cited for breaking state hunting rules, when he trapped and then shot a wolf.
South Dakota has also decided that wolves are predatory animals and therefore can be trapped and hunted.
One of the biggest problems, is that killing wolves does not reduce predation. Indeed, it can often have the opposite result. Biologists have suggested that this may be caused by the fact that, having suffered predation the wolf pack will reproduce more heavily than they might have. Then having more mouths to feed, they are more likely to kill livestock the following year. As have been found elsewhere, wolves generally keep away from people and farmland and have a preference for wild prey.
They have also found that the long argued belief from hunters, that the presence of wolves would reduce the deer population does not seem to be true. At the moment, all the wolves presence has done is forced the deer to return to their habits of staying deep in cover as much of the time as possible. As a result, humans will suppose that the deer population is lower simply because they don’t see them. A similar thing happens in Europe, we see deer around our house relatively regularly in England; yet when we go to wilder places in Europe with similar populations of deer, sightings are rare and fleeting. This is because by being seen in the open they greatly increase the odds of them being targeted by the wolves.
The intransigence of some of the human population in California must not be allowed to win, over the far higher number of people who support the wolves continued presence. There are currently roughly 18,000 wolves in the USA, however 12,000 of these live in Alaska. Estimates of wolf population at the time of Europeans settling vary widely though there are estimates of populations of 2 million or more. Clearly, without humans there is space for a wolf population 100 times the current one. Even assuming humans exclusively take up 90% of the space. there is space for 10 times this number spread across the USA. Many USA ecosystems would become far more productive if one of the apex predators were allowed to return.