OR7, A Wolf Conundrum

Conundrum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conundrum

After spending the afternoon with a gray wolf stakeholder group, I have concluded that California gray wolf  management is a conundrum.

First question: Why is it important to re-establish wolves in California? Answer: It is not very important.

Second question: Why is it important to facilitate the successful rehabilitation of California wolf habitat to accommodate a stray wolf that has wandered into California? Answer: It is not very important.

Third question: What problems do wolves create for California ranchers, conservationists and wildlife managers? Answer: Too many to list.

Last question: Why are we holding meetings to make decisions about gray wolf management in California when there is only one known gray wolf in California? Answer:  California politics are out of control and we are driven by  a form of insanity, which is the result of guilt feelings (for all the evironmental destruction man has wreaked on the earth) and an out of control emotional attachment to iconic creatures – like wolves.

I am a wolf fan and I will be thrilled when I see my first wolf and hope to have a wolf  hide hanging on my wall some day, right next to a couple of coyote hides. You can bet that wolf hide won’t be from a California gray wolf.

Here are four possible solutions to the gray wolf situation. The simplest and most cost-effective approach? Have the gray wolf classified as a varmint so that it can be eradicated. This solution is simple, painless, proven and cheap. It worked well for almost 100 years. End of discussion.

If the simple, cheap, proven and painless solution is not acceptable, the second solution would be to work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to create a recovery plan under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The recovery plan would establish management goals and create opportunities to fund activities like monitoring, study and mitigation for negative impacts to the species and its habitat. Hopefully, this would also create opportunities to manage other species, such as ungulates, that are critical prey species for wolves. But, I have to believe that the last thing the USFWS wants is to drag California into the already colossal fiasco that is taking place in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington – so odds are that this will not be the approach taken.

Another option is for California to take the lead in wolf recovery using a management plan as a guide. This option could create some problems by attempting to create a wolf program without proper funding. This approach would be particularly undesirable if wolves were delisted by the USFWS or is they make some type of formal decision that California is not important wolf habitat.

The last option  is for California to list wolves under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a tool to fund enhancement of wolf habitat and also habitat of related prey species. Land managers and conservationists could use the enormous power of CESA and CEQA to fund mitigation for habitat losses and compensate stakeholders who are negatively impacted by wolves. This type of action would prevent the creation of a (potenitally) huge unfunded mandate (option 3). And, politicians would be making the decision to go forward with a better idea of societal costs. Under this plan, wolves could thrive and so could their prey species.

(A side benefit would be that college freshmen planning a career in wolf management will have their chances for a success enhanced.)

The complexity of  this solution would be mind-boggling and also extremely expensive. Maybe that’s a reason for it to happen.

Californians can’t resist the temptation to spend money – especially on iconic creatures. The best thing about this last option is that it could result in improved habitat for and boost awareness of the other species out there that share wolf habitat – like mule deer. Wouldn’t it be ironical if one stray wolf accomplished all that for California wildlife?

Oh. There is another solution. California’s lone wolf (OR7) could go back home to Oregon and never come back. That would be nice.

Now, having this off my chest, maybe I can go to bed and get some sleep.

2 thoughts on “OR7, A Wolf Conundrum

  1. Enjoy your blog Rich, I’m sorry the first time I’m commenting is to disagree! I’m a hunter who has lived in two “wolf states”– MT and NM. In both cases the knowledge the critters I was hunting were a part of a more whole system enhanced my experience. In one case I was following a bachelor herd of elk and found both mountain lion and wolf tracks following the same group. That near Pleistocene experience was a rush I felt in my bones and will always remember.

    It really comes down to your values. If part of the enjoyment of the outdoors you get is to participate in a diverse web of life, then u probably think wolves are good. If u believe the outdoors’ greatest value is about maximizing productivity/harvest for private landowners, with people as the only managing large predator, then wolves are bad.

    As you note it is ironic that protecting wolves may help our hurting mule deer by establishing more habitat protections. With enough wolves its possible they cold also push some elk around, which may also help deer.

    Cheers

    • There is a third consideration you didn’t mention. That is the cost of wolves to the state of California. I believe that there is a diminishing return on the spread of wolves and that California is not a good return on the wolf investment. I’m not anti wolf, but I believe there is a proper time and place for them. Since we have options, let’s consider them all before we leap.

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