SACRAMENTO— The Center for Biological Diversity today increased to $7,500 the reward for information leading to a conviction for the illegal killing of a radio-collared wolf in California, OR-59, who had traveled there from Oregon in December 2018.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a $2,500 reward this week, and the Center is boosting the amount by $5,000. The Service reward announcement publicly revealed for the first time this week that the wolf’s death in 2018 was an unlawful shooting.
“We grieve the senseless and illegal killing of this precious wolf,” said Amaroq Weiss, a West Coast wolf advocate at the Center. “This loss is a terrible blow to wolf conservation in California. It underscores why our endangered wolves need the strongest possible protection at both state and federal levels.”
This most recent killing is one of several dozen in recent years jeopardizing the recovery of West Coast wolves in California, Oregon and Washington.
OR-59, a 1.5-year-old radio-collared male wolf from Oregon, moved into California in early December 2018. On Dec. 5, a rancher observed the wolf feeding on a calf carcass in northern Lassen County, but an investigation showed the wolf had not killed the livestock. After OR-59’s radio collar emitted a mortality signal, state wildlife officers found OR-59 dead along County Road 91 in Modoc County. A formal investigation by the Service revealed the animal had been illegally shot and killed with a .22 caliber weapon.
Anyone with information about the shooting should contact the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, Sacramento Field Office, at (916) 569-8444.
“We can’t let poachers deny future generations their opportunity to see these incredible animals in the wild,” Weiss said. “Whatever you think of wolves, poaching is wrong and cowardly. We hope someone steps forward with information leading to the killer’s prosecution.”
Fewer than a dozen known wolves now live in California, including a few lone wolves and the Lassen pack. The Lassen pack was confirmed in 2017 and ranges through Lassen and Plumas counties.
The seven-member, all-black Shasta pack, the state’s first in nearly 100 years, disappeared from Siskiyou County within months after its discovery in 2015, following the pack’s implications in two livestock casualties and amid fears of poaching.
California’s wolves were wiped out in the early 1900s by a nationwide, government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Wolves began to return to Oregon and Washington in the 2000s, and in 2011, a wolf from Oregon made his way into California, becoming the first confirmed wild wolf here in nearly 90 years. Since then several other wolves have ventured into California from Oregon.
Gray wolves are protected as an endangered species under state and federal law. The maximum penalty for violating the federal Endangered Species Act is one year in jail and a $100,000 fine per individual.