Through the chill of winter

Running across a frozen lake

Hunters are out on his trail

All odds are against him

With a family to provide for

The one thing he must keep alive

Will the wolf survive?

-Los Lobos
How will the Wolf Survive?

This old tune from Los Lobos finds new relevance in the middle Klamath Basin these days. At least one wolf pack has made a home here and biologist expect wolves to reclaim their historical range in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains over the next several years.

Wolves were extirpated from California in the 1920s by hunters and trappers. Wolves have returned to California on their own by dispersal of individuals from source populations probably originating from a pack of eleven wolves released along the Middle Fork Salmon River in central Idaho in 1995.

Wolves play a very important role in the ecosystems in which they live. Wolves influence the browsing and foraging patterns of prey animals and how they move about the land. This, in turn, ripples throughout plant and animal communities, often altering the landscape itself. For this reason, wolves are described as a “keystone species” whose presence is vital to maintaining the health, structure and balance of ecosystems.

While fairy tales and horror films have granted wolves a villainous reputation, the reality is that wolves very rarely pose a threat to people. Wolves tend to avoid humans but back country users should learn how to avoid contact with wolves and other wild animals when entering their habitat. One key is to never fed or knowingly approach a wolf. California Fish and Wildlife offers the following advice for anyone experiencing a close encounter with a wolf:
• Do not run. Maintain eye contact.
• Act aggressively, make noise while retreating slowly.
• If the wolf does not retreat, continue acting aggressively by yelling or throwing objects.

If you are lucky enough to see a wolf, please report to the Department as public reporting a key monitoring tool. Note that the gray wolf (Canis lupus) is protected under the California Endangered Species Act.

Some communities remain concerned that wolves will harm livestock. California Fish and Wildlife is working to educate landowners and the public on how to minimize such conflicts and manages a Livestock Loss Compensation program. These programs are designed to ensure communities welcome wolves back to the basin.

With wolves making their way back to the Klamath Basin, it looks like the answer to that question posed by Los Lobos back in 1984 is ‘yes’! But we humans will need to educate ourselves about how we can live harmoniously with wolves and maybe experience the thrill of hearing a howl in the distance on our next back country trip!

Learn more about the Gray Wolf in California on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.