The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today released the Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California (Part 1 and Part 2). CDFW gathered diverse input from a varied group of stakeholders for the past two years before finalizing the plan.
“Wolves returning to the state was inevitable, we always knew that,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Over the past few years we have seen wolves re-establish themselves. It’s an exciting ecological story, and this plan represents the path forward to manage wolves in a state with nearly 40 million people.”
This plan addresses important concerns regarding the presence of wolves, including conflicts with livestock and the maintenance of adequate prey sources for wolves, other predators, and public use. Given the controversy of this iconic species, it was important that the planning process produce a source of clear, objective information, based on a thorough consideration of the available science most relevant for wolves in California. The plan covers key issues and potential actions CDFW believes important to the understanding and future conservation of wolves.
“CDFW is not proposing delisting criteria at this time.” This line also appeared in bold on page 12. “As previously stated, existing information is not yet sufficient to articulate what a “conserved”, condition for gray wolves means in California,” the plan states. “Sufficient information to support development of delisting criteria may be available near the end of Phase 2, or in Phase 3, as described in later sections of the Plan.”
Here’s a little synopis on what Phase 1, 2 and 3 will entail:
Phase 1 is now underway and will manage an initial wolf population consistent with state policy to conserve species listed as endangered under CESA, and while recognizing that any wolves in California are currently federally listed as endangered. Phase 1 is expected to account for the period of reestablishment of wolves as resident wildlife in California, first as individual dispersing wolves and then through formation of the first packs. CDFW defines an ending for Phase 1 when there are four breeding pairs (BP) for two successive years confirmed in California. A BP is defined as at least 1 adult female and at least 1 adult male and at least two pups that survive until December 31. At a minimum, this means at least 16 wolves. Based on information from Washington and Oregon, the estimated California Department of Fish and Wildlife Page 22 Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California PART I December 2016 population at the conclusion of Phase 1 will likely be in the range of 90-110 wolves (Table G.1, Part II Appendix G).
Phase 2 will begin after CDFW confirms four BPs for two successive years. CDFW defines the conclusion of Phase 2 as that point when eight BPs are confirmed for two consecutive years. This phase will likely correspond to the time when the California wolf population’s growth is driven more by natural reproduction than by continued net immigration by Oregon wolves. This phase is envisioned as a period of time when wolves range into and inhabit suitable areas of northern California, and perhaps portions of the central Sierra Nevada. CDFW anticipates that additional relevant information will continue to become available, physical and biological conditions in California will continue to change, legal frameworks and authorities may change, and CDFW staff will have gained additional experience with wolves. Such events present an opportunity to adapt the Plan to conditions as they then exist. Initially, the Plan envisions that additional latitude to manage impacts of wolves on livestock or wolf predation on wild ungulate populations whose range overlaps that of wolves may be warranted in Phase 2.
Phase 3 will begin after CDFW confirms that there are at least eight BPs for two consecutive years. Based on data on wolf recolonization and recovery in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the estimated population at the end of Phase 2 and beginning of Phase 3 will likely be in the range of 153-190 wolves (Table G.1, Part II Appendix G). This period should provide suitable time to conduct a status review of the species to evaluate whether state listing as endangered remains warranted, notwithstanding the existing requirement to review the status of a CESA-listed species every five years. Any status review will then be provided to the Commission for its consideration of the facts and whether they warrant some discretionary action by the Commission. Phase 3 is envisioned as implementation of long-term management strategies. Necessarily, this phase can only be framed in general terms because forecasting the details of this future is impossible using currently available information. For example, if wolves are then abundant they may be recommended for delisting. CDFW will defer development of specifics for long-term management until the middle of Phase 2 when better information about wolves and their distribution is available.