Thoughts on Listing Wolves Under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA)

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.




2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Listing Wolves Under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA)

  1. This is well thought out. My experience with wolves in MT and NM is that the hysteria on both sides is way overblown. I say that as a hunter.

    I figure 7 went back to OR because he found Cali to be slim pickings. A lone wolf can’t have much effect on an elk herd, and I’d be surprised if he even ran into one while here. A healthy adult deer is hard for a single wolf. Neither of those populations are doing well anyway.

    Ranchers will need to be smarter about how they manage their herds, and some proactive outreach and information sharing would go a long way. Rubber bullets, guard dogs, fencing and fladry can all be good tools.

    Personally I’ve found hunting in wolf country to be more satisfying. The game behave differently. I don’t want a sterilized game farm when I head outdoors. If you want that go to Europe. This is America.

  2. Great, thoughtful post, Rich.

    With the possible exception of a localized predator pit problem (which, given the transient nature and massive range of wolves, is probably unlikely),I don’t expect wolves to make big incursions into the state until their prey recover.

    I do hope that some initial pressure by wolves will spur elk and deer herds to begin moving longer distances, and I know for a fact that the same people who have pushed for wolves to get listed are hoping for habitat improvements and protections — primarily from development.

    Thanks for such a great post!

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