The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday postponed a decision on whether to afford gray wolves protection under the state's Endangered Species Act.
Acknowledging the passion the issue generates, the commission voted unanimously to extend public comment on the matter for 90 days and will take up the issue at the next meeting in June.
The decision is in response to the arrive of a young male wolf known as OR-7 who began to range between Oregon and northern California in late 2011.
The commission considered a staff recommendation to not list wolves, but elected to hear more public input from stakeholders unable to get to the meeting in Ventura.
The group also urged continuing the process of formulating a management plan for a time when the predators re-establish packs in the state -- which wildlife officials in California consider inevitable within 10 years.
Historically, wolves ranged widely in California, but by the late 1920s were extirpated — hunted and trapped -- to the point that no wolves were known to populate the state.
The California Department of Fish and Game considers OR-7 an intermittent resident of the state and tracks his movements via a radio collar.
Although the animal has spent most of his time in Oregon, telemetry indicates OR-7 continues to venture into California, most recently in January and February.