The recent discovery of gray wolves recolonizing their historic lairs in Northern California has intensified disputes among environmentalists, hunters and ranchers over the state's draft conservation plan to ensure the species' long-term survival.
Hunters and ranchers worry wolves will ravage big-game populations of elk and deer, as well as livestock. Environmentalists are concerned about provisions in the plan that would allow the wolf, listed by California as an endangered species, to be killed in certain circumstances.
The controversial plan will be discussed at a public meeting Tuesday at Cal State Long Beach, to give stakeholders in Southern California a voice in extending protections for the predators as the "Shasta pack" of two adults and five pups reestablish residency in former haunts.
California's wolves wandered in from Oregon -- not by reintroduction, but by natural expansion into the wilds of Siskyou County nearly two decades after they were introduced in and around Yellowstone National Park.
The Center for Biological Diversity is particularly concerned about proposals in the draft plan that could allow limited takes and possible delisting of wolves after the population grows to 50 to 75 animals.
"The plan fails to explain why such a small and fragile population should have protections removed," said Amaroq Weiss, the center's West Coast wolf organizer. "The state Fish and Wildlife Department's own scientists believe that more than 500 wolves could be supported in Northern California and the central Sierra Nevada range."
A final decision on the proposed wolf management plan is not expected until sometime next year.
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