A new predator has been introduced into Northeastern California, and thanks to the state’s fish and game commission’s listing of the grey wolf as an endangered species, local ranchers have few options to protect their livestock.
“The gray wolf listing amounts to bad science, bad policy and bad law,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Damien Schiff said in a press release earlier this year.
PLF represents the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Farm Bureau in a civil lawsuit filed against the California Fish and Game Commission last January in San Diego Superior Court.
“California bureaucrats managed to label the gray wolf as ‘endangered’ only by ignoring the wolf’s populations outside California.” Schiff said. “This deliberate undercounting is more than irresponsible, it’s flat-out illegal.”
The lawsuit challenges the listing because it’s based on flimsy evidence, regulators undercounted the wolf’s numbers and the gray wolf (actually a native of Canada) should not be covered under state law.
Dave Daley, CCA president and a Butte County cattleman, said this lawsuit is necessary for ranchers to ensure the humane treatment of their livestock.
“Under California law, you can’t even pursue a species that is listed as endangered,” Daley said. “If a rancher sees a wolf attacking one of his or her calves, he or she can’t even chase the wolf away without breaking the law. Ranchers are not seeking open season on wolves, we just want sensible wolf management that also allows us to protect our livestock. That will require delisting the gray wolf.”
Lassen County rancher Richard Egan, who has seen evidence of The Lassen Pack at his leased public land allotment near Moonlight Valley, the first wild wolves living in Lassen County since the last one in the state was shot and killed near Litchfield in 1924, said he doubts a rancher would ever actually witness a wolf attack on his livestock. Egan said it’s much more likely the rancher would simply find a carcass the predators had abandoned after a meal.
According to the state’s wolf management plan, wolves prefer to prey on elk and secondarily deer, but the plan acknowledges, “Although livestock losses from wolves in California are expected to occur on large ranches and public land grazing allotments, wolf-related losses may also occur on smaller parcels in rural residential areas. Many Californians reside in such areas, often located on deer winter ranges and/or adjacent to public land or private forest and rangelands.”
As the lawsuit from the cattlemen and the farmers argue, these wolves being introduced into the state are not the native species of wolf historically found in California, so it’s difficult to understand how or why the state would list them as an endangered species — especially given their large numbers in other states and in Canada. Some even wonder why the state would want to introduce this once eradicated predator back into the state in the first place.
While no one — not even the threatened ranchers — is calling for the wholesale slaughter of wolves, any plan for the management of these creatures must give the ranchers the right to protect their livestock and their livelihoods.