The California Fish and Game Commission will be in Mount Shasta this morning for the possible ratification of its findings to list the gray wolf as an endangered species.

The California Fish and Game Commission will be in Mount Shasta this morning for the possible ratification of its findings to list the gray wolf as an endangered species.

A meeting is scheduled to be held at Mount Shasta Sisson Museum at 1 North Old Stage Road starting at 8:30 a.m.

The commission’s draft findings propose, “The Commission determines that there is sufficient evidence in the record to indicate that designating the gray wolf as an endangered species under CESA is warranted at this time and … the gray wolf shall be listed as endangered.”

The process began with a 2012 petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center that asked the FGC to list the wolf under the California Endangered Species Act.

An animal is considered for the list if the species is “a native species or subspecies of a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant which is in serious danger of becoming extinct throughout all, or a significant portion, of its range due to one or more causes, including loss of habitat, change in habitat, overexploitation, predation, competition, or disease,” according to FGC code.

The commission’s draft findings state that FGC code, CESA and other applicable laws do not require a species to have a continuous breeding population in California in order to meet the definition of “endangered” or “threatened.” Currently, there are no known established wolf populations in the state, and so far, there have only been intermittent visits by a wolf designated as OR-7 over the past few years.

The draft identifies other species that demonstrate the precedent, including the listing in 1971 of the Guadalupe sure seal and the American wolverine, both of which occur only sporadically in the state and have never been recommended for delisting.

The FGC drew upon numerous informational sources in making its determination, including the initial petition, reports from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the administrative record, which includes thousands of written and oral comments. CDFW itself, in its status review of the gray wolf, stated that it does not find listing to be warranted, but did indicate that the agency believes listing would be necessary in the future.

The draft notes that of the possible factors that can lead to a determination include overexploitation, predation, disease and other natural occurrences or human-related activities that can present a threat to wolf populations here.

The findings detailed in the draft indicate that the FGC believes that wolves historically existed in California and were distributed throughout the state, although not in large numbers. The document also states that evidence shows that wolves were extirpated from the state by the end of the 1920s, based on a 2012 report prepared by CDFW.

“As to the science available at this time and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from that information … humans likely purposefully extirpated the species in California early in the twentieth century,” the report states.

The draft also goes into detail about the movements and behavior of OR-7, which is described as exhibiting normal wolf dispersal behavior. It is noted that since its discovery, the wolf has found a mate and is currently denning with pups on public land in southwestern Oregon.

According to the findings, there may have been, and likely will be, other wolves dispersing into the state, but those without tracking collars like OR-7’s can enter undetected.

A number of potential risks are outlined in the draft, starting with the potential threat from being killed by humans either from mistaken identification as coyotes or on purpose. The draft cites letters from county supervisors from Modoc, Siskiyou and Lassen counties “expressing a desire to kill wolves in the area, a sentiment which represents an imminent threat to wolves that are dispersing to the State.”

The FGC notes that federal listing of the gray wolf as endangered – which has been proposed to be vacated – limited human-caused mortality of wolves through protective measures.

Disease is also listed as a limiting factor on gray wolf populations, with the species susceptible to mange and parvo, which is carried by domestic dogs.

Opposing voices

Included in the meeting materials are a number of letters expressing opposition to the listing and asking for reconsideration. The list includes letters from Senate Republican Jim Nielsen, Senator Ted Gaines and the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.

Gaines’ letter asks the FGC how it can choose to list the gray wolf when it has chosen not to list the white shark, which he feels exists in the state under similar circumstances. Calling on CDFW’s own review of the status of the white shark, Gaines states that he believes identified alternatives to listing the shark would also work for the gray wolf.

The letter from the Siskiyou supervisors focuses on the potential conflicts with agricultural interests, noting that an endangered listing could legally prohibit lethal measures for reducing livestock predation.

“Sometimes it is better to remove animals that are developing the habit of preying on livestock before the entire pack begins to depend on livestock as a main food source,” the letter reads. “An integrated management approach where all tools are considered is a necessary means of wolf management.”