Yesterday I was honored to have a private tour of the California Wolf Center out near Julian, CA. I donated a “Safari Session” and a Chromaluxe & Acrylic fine art print for their annual fundraising auction. The auction was part of the “A Night to Howl for Wolves” celebration during Wolf Awareness Week earlier this month.
Mexican Gray Wolves
Kim Carey, my guide, told me about the plight of the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) and the efforts to bring them back from a total population of less than 400 animals. The Mexican gray wolf is also known as the lobo wolf. Most politicians are still trying to lump Mexican gray wolves and North American gray wolves together as one species so that they can take them off the endangered species list. The science (i.e. genetic testing) clearly says the two species are different. The Mexican gray wolf is critically endangered, while the North American gray wolf is slightly less so. Many institutions are involved in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, but the CWC is probably the largest breeding program involved.
North American Gray Wolves
The North American gray wolves (Canis lupus) at the Center were a little less shy than their Mexican cousins. Ketchikan, an eleven year old male, was a wee bit of a ham. I didn’t know that wolves could have black on their tongues like Chow Chows, but here’s proof (below). It was really warm and mostly overcast, but I got a few good shots shooting through the fence like I do at baseball games. Gotta love that 70-200mm F2.8 IS lens on my full-frame DSLR!
The North American gray wolf used to roam freely throughout the West, but was systematically nearly exterminated by ranchers and the U.S. government, which would pay bounties on their pelts. The last wild wolf was shot and killed in Lassen County, California in 1924. In 2011, a wolf known as “Journey” crossed the state of Oregon to arrive in California. Because of Journey’s landmark step, the California Wolf Center established a Northern California Chapter to lay the foundation for wolves to peacefully return to California after begin eradicated by people almost a century ago. The CWC’s programs include:
- Education and outreach in Northern California communities.
- Participation in a group of stakeholders advising the California Department of Fish & Wildlife on the draft California Wolf Plan. These stakeholders include ranchers, who have become proactive in managing their herds through the use of “Range Riders.”
- Establishing the California Wolf Fund with the sole purpose of providing education on the use and implementation of nonlethal, proactive solutions to wolf-livestock conflicts, providing communities with the tools they need to successfully coexist with wolves.