A CESA listing can create opportunity for wildlife. The State has many programs that can have the effect of enhancing wildlife habitat to offset habitat losses to roads and development. Because the wolf listing is so unique, I imagine it will take a while for California to figure it out.
Wolves live on ungulates – deer and elk. In a perfect world, California should step up and fund a campaign to improve habitat for wolves in California, which really would be a campaign to improve deer and elk herds. That may be wishful thinking, but we need to conserve our wildlife resources. If we don’t, we won’t have wolves, deer or elk.
Ball-park estimates are that a wolf will eat about two elk a month – a pack of five about 120 elk a year. California doesn’t have an elk supply large enough to sustain many wolf packs.
Because elk are in short supply, people who support the concept of large numbers of wolves in California are banking on wolves prospering on a diet of mule and blacktailed deer. Mule deer have not proved to be a sustaining source of food for wolves, but the coast range and western slope Sierra’s may have blacktail herds that wolves can rely on.
California will have as many deer and elk as the habitat will support. It’s hard to know exactly how wolves will enter into the equation, but adding a new predator won’t make deer and elk management easier. Nor will it expand hunting opportunity for people who would like to hunt elk in California at least once in their lifetime.
On the other hand, the State of California has indirectly made a commitment to the welfare of deer and elk, because without deer and elk, there will be no wolves.
It is possible that, in the short term, wolves will only be transients in California – coming and going with ungulate populations trends and movements. In the meantime, Oregon has the elk needed to feed wolves and California not.
Nobody knows for sure what will happen from here. Theories abound. But, wolves have been expanding their territory rapidly and will likely continue to do so for a while.