Saturday, December 2, 2023

How California Tracks Their New Gray Wolf Population

I took my dogs up close, it’s not on the Trail of One Hundred Giants but it’s in the area.”

That’s John Ornosky, a Wofford Heights resident recounting his experience in mid-September.

“Not far to hike, I got to the signs.”

The sign Ornosky was referring to said there were traps in the area that could potentially trap dogs. Those traps, for a new wolfpack discovered in southern Tulare County in the Sequoia National Forest.

“It was a good warning, I’m glad I saw them as quickly as I did because then I dismissed the dogs and basically took a picture of the sign and left.”

Wolves, once extirpated from California – the last known gray wolf in the 20th century was shot and killed in 1924. Almost a hundred years later, they are slowly making a comeback. Jordan Traverso, Deputy Director of Communications for California Fish and Wildlife, said the department began receiving reports of wolves near the Giant National Sequoia Monument in July of this year.

“So we went out there to check if that was the case because this is the most southerly pack we’ve had since wolves came back to California in 2011,” Traverso said.

After the department collected hair and scat samples they confirmed an unprecedented pack of wolves in the area.

“Once we have an established package, part of what we do is dress up and try to just collar the wolf,” Traverso explained.

The department has a collaring expedition, as part of that, they set traps. Ornosky told me he disagrees with collaring.

“We know they’re here and people are trying to trap them,” Ornosky said.

Traverso says this is standard protocol for the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf management plan. The collars track more than just the locations of wolves.

“What they use the land for, what kind of things they need, like canopy cover and water and food sources, and how they move, we learned a whole bunch of things,” said Traverso.

However, the latest collaring expedition for the new wolf pack was unsuccessful and the traps have since been removed. Traverso said there are plans for another collaring expedition, but he’s not sure when that will be.

“They are really Hi-Tech. Males have swollen neck when breeding and have a series of magnets that open and close depending on the size of their neck. If they grow if you put them on a young bud and then they grow,” said Traverso,” It was designed to give us information for about a year and a half but then fell.

Fish and Wildlife then tracked down and took the collar. Ornosky says he’s excited that wolves are back in the Sequoias.

“It’s nice to know that things are getting wilder for me. It’s exciting,” he said.

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