SUSANVILLE, Calif. — Ranchers and a wolf advocate are praising the state’s handling of a newly discovered pack in Lassen County.
Pamela Flick, the California representative for Defenders of Wildlife, says she’s glad the state Department of Fish and Wildlife put a radio collar on the alpha female of the Lassen Pack.
The pack’s presence was confirmed last week. It is the second wolfpack to settle in California after the Shasta Pack was identified near the Oregon state line in 2015.
“The information gathered by the collar can be shared with ranchers running livestock near the pack to help inform management, including the use of proactive strategies like increasing human presence and other tools to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock,” Flick said in an email.
Such “coexistence strategies” were the focus of a workshop held in Hat Creek, Calif., in mid-June, hosted by Flick and state and federal wildlife officials. At the workshop, top DFW officials were grilled by cattle producers who perceive the agency as slow to notify landowners of nearby wolf sightings.
Several attendees, including rancher and Shasta County Supervisor Mary Rickert, urged the DFW to collar wolves so producers could learn more quickly that the predators are in the area and move their livestock out of danger, if possible.
“As long as the government can be diligent about notifying us, then it will work,” Rickert said in an interview.
DFW wildlife manager Karen Kovacs told the ranchers that radio collars are “in our plan.”
“One key point of discussion at that event was that many diverse stakeholders ... all agree that it is critical to collar at least one wolf from each known wolf family in order to track pack activities and inform local landowners and ranchers of nearby wolf presence,” Flick said.
Several ranchers have reported seeing wolf tracks in Lassen County in recent weeks. Rancher Joe Egen said in an interview he had considered not turning his cattle out on his summer range but decided to do so with a heavy human presence.
Biologists captured the 75-pound female gray wolf on June 30 after 12 days of trapping attempts, according to a state news release. They examined the wolf and fitted her with a tracking collar.
She had given birth to pups this spring, said Deana Clifford, the DFW’s senior wildlife veterinarian.
Trail cameras operated by the U.S. Forest Service captured photos of the mother and three pups. While much of the pack’s activity has been in Lassen County, tracks have also been confirmed in Plumas County, officials said.
The collar will keep track of the mother’s activity, survival, reproduction and prey preferences, the release explained. Officials say they hope the collar will help minimize wolf-livestock conflicts by providing information about the pack’s location.
State and federal protections make it illegal to kill or hunt gray wolves in California. Wolf advocates and state officials have been promoting nonlethal means of warding off wolves, including using guardian dogs, motion-sensor lights, brightly colored flags or range riders.