This past summer, the Department of Fish and Wildlife posted a trail cam video of the Lassen Pack, California’s only known wolf pack. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildfire

Supes offer direction to CDFW for local wolf plan

It’s time for some changes, not simply better communication, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors said to visiting California Department of Fish and Wildlife representatives regarding the gray wolf management plan.

Tuesday, Feb. 11, officials from the CDFW Northern Region attended the local meeting to provide updates, allow for more open communication and discuss the possibility of setting up meetings to create a local plan for Lassen County.

After a 90-minute discussion on the agenda item, the supervisors directed CDFW to work with local groups to come up with Lassen County relevant adjustments regarding the gray wolf plan.

“When we talk about this stuff, we’re relying on you. Your honor is as good as your word to come back with an adjustment to the wolf plan; that’s where it’s got to start,” said supervisor Aaron Albaugh. “Hopefully you guys can come back to us, and then we’d be happy and more than willing to work with you.”

The Lassen Pack has an apparent current status of two adults, one yearling and one to three pups, with 16 confirmed, probable depredations from the locally roaming pack, according to Northern Regional Manager Tina Bartlett.

The gray wolf is listed as an endangered species in California.

The local supervisors, along with local ranchers, have found issue with the CDFW gray wolf management plan though, with some noting they are not provided timely updates on wolf presence near their livestock and are left without ways to protect them. Some on the board admonished CDFW for the resources expended investigating dead wolves around the state.

Although agreeing the conversation was long overdue, CDFW discussed the idea of possible adjustments to the plan for the area, along with collaborations between county and state.

“We heard you in September; that’s why we’re here,” said Stafford Lehr, Northern Region deputy director.

He outlined various tools that the state has to collaborate with the county, including a Safe Harbor agreement where the rules of engagement are clearly laid out for producers and a voluntary landowner incentive program. He also said the county could have a liaison to the department where there can be direct lines of communication.

“We are committed to increasing the executive involvement with the board and its representatives so that you know that we’re serious, and we don’t take the concerns lightly,” said Lehr. “We heard it loud and clear … It’s been too long, and we needed to be up here early, we’re here now, and how do we move forward in a productive manner.”

Additionally, Northern Regional Manager Bartlett acknowledged the CDFW meeting with Lassen County was overdue, and the department was hoping to create more lines of communication, in addition to providing information on wolf management.

In her presentation to the board, Bartlett shared the key challenges of the plan, addressing the wolf-livestock conflict. The on-going strategies regarding livestock conflicts, such as open communications include funding for cost-sharing for non-lethal practices, and compensation for livestock loss and compensation.

She also discussed the non-lethal tactics local producers are able to implement to keep wolves away from livestock such as turbo fladry, fox lights and radio activated guard boxes, in addition to increased human presence and equipment setup and maintenance. Loud noises, spotlights and human approaches are also allowed as long the wolves are not injured, physically contacted or pursued with a vehicle, or any other means.

Lehr said the CDFW has expended about $1 million, mostly of federal grants, on the gray wolf management plan.

Following the presentations, though, the supervisors and some in the audience wanted to make sure CDFW knew where they stood on the protections on the gray wolf, contrary to concerns of the hunting tourism of Lassen County, livestock safety and financial management.

Supervisor Chris Gallagher criticized CDFW, saying the department should be left to professionals, not politicians.

He said the department used to be about management. Now, with wolves, he said, the options for local hunting, including deer and elk, were at risk.

Lehr responded, noting CDFW was working to increase the deer and elk population, and said since tracking the populations, they’ve been able to issue more tags for hunting.

Albaugh thanked CDFW for coming to speak with the board, but shared his opinion on the amount of resources used to investigate wolf deaths and noted they’d be better to allocate resources to help eradicate illegal marijuana grows.

He also said a definition of what a wolf is should be included in the plan.

Some in the audience also spoke regarding the situation.

Taylor Hagata, local rancher, questioned what the notification protocol was when wolves are in the area since sometimes he receives a call, or his neighbor does.

CDFW responded that the system could use some improvement and said it would be included in Lassen’s custom plan.

County Administrative Officer Richard Egan noted this meeting was very common: discussion about what could be done, but no action.

Lehr said he and Bartlett were committed to working on a Lassen County Plan and being proactive with local stakeholders and producers.

Ultimately, the supervisors voiced their concerns with how the gray wolves are being managed and offered direction to CDFW to work on the custom Lassen plan.

No action was taken during the meeting. Supervisor Tom Hammond was not present at the meeting.