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Gray Wolves in California: A Timeline

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OR-7, a.k.a. "Journey," a.k.a. the first wolf to visit California in 89 years. | Photo: USFWS

Love 'em or loathe 'em, gray wolves are coming back to California. The gregarious predators are reoccupying habitat from which 19th and 20th century Californians displaced them, and that's inspiring admiration among wolf fans worldwide.

It's not that wolves are universally popular across the board in the Golden State. Ranchers and farmers who raise livestock in potential wolf habitat are wary of the wolves reinhabiting the state, and that's not hard to understand. As the state's wolf population grows little by little, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is crafting a wolf management plan for the state, which will set policy for how to handle the probably inevitable conflicts between wolves and stock growers. A workable policy will go a long way toward reducing resentment of gray wolves in California.

It's probably safe to say, however, that the majority of Californians are very much in favor of our state's new canine residents. After decades of news of environmental loss coming over the airwaves and the net like a constant drumbeat, there's just something about California's new wolves that feels like taking a deep breath. We constantly hear about one species after another declining or going extinct. Even the relative success stories, like the continuing existence of the California condor, come only after a massive investment in .recovery programs.

Meanwhile, wolves voluntarily walk hundreds of miles from Idaho to reintroduce themselves to the state of California, and all we need to do to help them along is to avoid shooting them.

At this writing, California has two documented wolf packs. That will almost certainly change, and soon. In 2011, California had one wild gray wolf that visited occasionally. Between the state's two current packs, the state now has nine wolves. Those two packs could add as many as a dozen more wolves to the state's roster by 2017's spring denning season even if no more wolves wander in from Oregon or Nevada.

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Trail camera image of a young member of the Rogue Pack | Photo: Oregon DFW

It's going to be hard to keep up. That's why we've put together this interactive timeline of gray wolves in California, which we'll be updating as more wolf news happens. You can bookmark this page, or just check our news stories about wolves: we'll be embedding the continually updated timeline in the stories that make up our ongoing gray wolf coverage. 

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For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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