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San Diego Wildlife Advocates Pave Way To Restore Gray Wolves In California

Above: Four Mexican gray wolf pups were born at the California Wolf Center in April 2011. The pups will likely be selected for breeding or release when they're old enough.

Aired 2/18/14 on KPBS News.

Efforts in San Diego County to restore Mexican gray wolves in the southwest are paying off. A recent survey shows a steady increase of the animal in the wild.

Efforts in San Diego County to restore Mexican gray wolves in the southwest are paying off. A recent survey shows a steady increase of the animal in the wild.

The Mexican gray wolf population at a recovery range in Arizona and New Mexico, where breeded animals are released, has increased to 83 — up from 75 last year, and just four in 1998. The California Wolf Center in Julian is one of several facilities across the country working to breed the endangered animal, which is a sub-species of the gray wolf.

This map shows the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction location along the Arizon...
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Above: This map shows the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction location along the Arizona and New Mexico border.

The group is also working to pave the way for the return of gray wolves to California by proposing state and federal conservation plans and educating the public.

"Mainly because they’ll sometimes get into conflict with livestock, and people tend to have very strong feelings one way or another about wolves; they either kind of love them or they don’t," said Lauren Richie, director of California Wolf Recovery at the Wolf Center.

Earlier this month, following a yearlong review, the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Chuck Bonham, recommended to not list the gray wolf on the endangered species list. Instead, he advised listing the wolf as a species of special concern and that a prohibition be placed on killing of gray wolves in California.

The commission is expected to consider his recommendation and could act on it in April.

Richie said she’s puzzled by the recommendation because currently, just one gray wolf called OR7 is meandering along the northern California border, and she believes the endangered species list is warranted.

"It’s kind of hard to get more endangered than that," said Richie. "But we do understand there’s a lot of scientific uncertainly. Usually when a department is looking at listing a species at the state level they’ve got to use a lot of scientific data to make that decision, and there isn’t really much because we don’t have a wolf population."

"If we could get another way to afford protections, that would be, I guess, a second best choice," she added.

More gray wolves are expected to move into California from the north as the population grows.

"It’s hard to predict how many could come," said Richie. "That really depends on the habitat and the prey base that’s available for wolves."

"We’re preparing for wolves to come back regardless of what the protections are because we think it’s inevitable and we see being proactive as a positive thing regardless of what the legal status is," Richie said.

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Avatar for user 'CalWriter'

CalWriter | February 18, 2014 at 8:31 a.m. ― 3 years ago

For the sake of accuracy: Chuck Bonham is Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), not the Fish and Game Commission. The Department is the state agency that employs wildlife officers, biologists, botanists, toxicologists, wildlife veterinarians and other specialists dedicated to carrying out its mission. For more information, visit

The Commission is a separate entity composed of up to five members, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. None of them are full-time public employees. They hold public meetings and make decisions regarding wildlife laws (e.g., Fish and Game Code) that guide and direct the Department's actions. (

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Avatar for user 'lynna'

lynna | February 18, 2014 at 4:19 p.m. ― 3 years ago

As for Ms. Richie being "puzzled" by the state's reluctance to designate the one lone wolf in the wild as "endangered"....the answer is simple. Special interests. Special interests. Special interests. The same group backing politicians in AZ and NM to delist the Mexican gray wolves there. Please take a look at the kind of people we have on our "CA Fish and Game Commission"! President of the Commission was (and maybe still is) Dan Richards, who went to Idaho to kill a magnificent 3 year old cougar that he treed using hounds. Then had some cool photos taken of the limp body of this beautiful, exhausted creature in his arms....with a huge grin on his face. Why did he go to Idaho? Because it is illegal to do this in California. Big brave, hunter....given control over what happens to our wildlife and natural resources? Wish the people of California would wake up to the kind of people who populate the very agencies charged with protecting our resources and wildlife.

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Avatar for user 'somsai'

somsai | February 18, 2014 at 5:12 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I would be extremely happy if wolves were introduced to the Santa Monica Mountains and would be able to not only raise tons of money to support such a program but could provide free wolves via Idaho where there is a long standing offer to give wolves to any state. I believe the gray wolf in Idaho is the best one for California and the Sanat Monica Mountains would be the best place to start a restoration.

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Avatar for user 'EricMills'

EricMills | February 18, 2014 at 11:09 p.m. ― 3 years ago

FOR LYNNA, ET AL. - Just for the record, former Fish & Game Commissioner Dan Richards was railroaded off the Commission in an outburst of self-righteous indignation by a bunch of politicians and would-be animal protectionists in response to his perfectly legal mountain lion hunt in Idaho. I'm no fan of trophy hunting, but we lost one of our better commissioners in the process. In my experience, Mr. Richards was always honest, informed, outspoken, and willing to hear other viewpoints--not always the case with all other commissioners, past and present. Just sayin'.

Current President of the F&G Commission is Mike Sutton (an Audubon rep.) Other members are Jack Baylis, VP; Jim Kellogg (who has said he'd be happy to shoot a wolf, but "you'd never see a photo of it in the newspapers"); Richard Rogers (whose term expired 2+ years ago); and Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, the latest appointee (and one of only THREE women appointed in 140 years).

The Commission is expected to vote on the status of the gray wolf at their April 16 meeting in Ventura, and the public is encouraged to attend and speak. The controversial "coyote killing contests" issue will likely be on the same agenda. (See the Commission's website closer to the date for the complete agenda.)

Letters of concern may now be sent to both the Department and the Commission at the same address: Resources Building, 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

EMAIL - DFW Director Chuck Bonham -

EMAIL - Commission - (Sonke Mastrup, Exec. Director)

(NOTE: Letters carry more weight than emails.)

And while you're at it, ask that the Public Forum be re-instated to its rightful place, FIRST THING ON THE AGENDA, where it was for years. Recently, Public Forum has been placed LAST on the agenda, and one is left speaking to a nearly-empty room, often with one or more commissioners departed. Placing the Public Forum first would be far more "user-friendly," and enables the public to allocate its time much more efficiently. Nor would this logical format lengthen the time of these meetings. What's not to like? A cynic might think they really didn't want to hear from us.....

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Avatar for user 'TirawaJoy'

TirawaJoy | February 19, 2014 at 11:19 a.m. ― 3 years ago

First, I must say that I am happy that our wolves are getting press, but this is yet another 'fluff' piece that does not do any investigating into the background of the Mexican Grey Wolves FIGHT to come back from near extinction.

There were to be over 100 Mexican Grey Wolves by or before 2006. It is 2014 and we ONLY have 83.

The release of additional breeding pairs have been hampered from the inception of this plan for recovery due to politics and it continues to this day.

The AZ F&G have killed wolves during their attempts to capture and either do health checks or relocation of them...these have largely been covered up.

AZ and NM F&G have laid traps and feel that the traps will not be an issue with the a result the wolves are being killed in traps.

AZ F&G Commissioners are appointed (as in all states) by the Governor. Ours in Arizona are all members of the NRA and multiple other groups which have been named DEFENDANTS in Pro-Wolf organizations lawsuits to try and PROTECT WOLVES. One of the AZ F&G Commissioners poached and killed an endangered species and it was swept under the table. These commissioners want the Mexican Wolves hunted for any reason and have lied in their testimony to get this front and center at the State Legislative Session currently going on.

There are THREE wolf bills in Arizona currently. All are premature and fueled by Americans For Prosperity (Koch brothers funded). SB 1211 is very brutal indicating that a wolf can be 'taken' (killed) in part for any reason with no repercussions, be it by F&G or a private person. It further allows the HUNTING of wolves by GUN, Bow and Arrow, SNARING, TRAPPING and DOGS (this is dog fighting and illegal).

Yes, if I was ignorant to the plight of our wolves, this piece would make me feel all warm and fuzzy, but the COLD REALITY is that if Arizona and New Mexico get their way, they will join with Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and SLAUGHTER these apex predators that are essential for OUR LIVES.

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