Yesterday, the Center for Biological Diversity increased 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.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a statement announcing a $2,500 reward while publicly revealing for the first time that the wolf’s death was an unlawful shooting. With the Center boosting the amount by $5,000, the reward is now at $7,500.
“We grieve the senseless and illegal killing of this precious wolf,” Amaroq Weiss, a West Coast wolf advocate at the Center, said in a statement. “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 one and a half year old radio-collared male wolf from Oregon moved into California in early December 2018. On December 5th, a rancher observed the wolf feeding on a calf carcass in northern Lassen County, but an investigation determined that the wolf had not killed the animal. 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 that the animal had been illegally shot and killed with a .22 caliber weapon.
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 their range spans 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 animal casualties and amid fears of poaching.
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.