The wolf OR-54, equipped with a radio-tracking collar, was found dead on Wednesday in Shasta County, the agency said in a statement. The cause of death has yet to be found, so it is unknown whether he died from an accident or natural causes or was killed. It is illegal to take, shoot, injure or kill gray wolves in the US, with federal penalties of up a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity said fewer than 12 wolves are currently known to be alive in the state of California. Most of the wolves were eradicated in XIX – XX century as they were believed to be a threat to livestock. One of the last wolves in California, OR-59, was found dead after being shot back in 2018. The killing remains unsolved.
Amaroq Weiss, a West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the AP that the recovery of wolves in California has experienced a major setback with the death of OR-54.
“This is a tragic development for the early stages of wolf recovery in California,” Weiss said. “Like her dad, the famous wolf OR-7 who came to California years ago, OR-54 was a beacon of hope who showed that wolves can return and flourish here. Her death is devastating, no matter the cause.”
A wolf from Oregon dubbed OR-7 arrived in 2011, becoming the first confirmed in the California wild in 90 years. He later returned to Oregon and started what is known as the Rogue Pack, where OR-54 was born. She was later trapped and given a radio-collar. Since 2018, OR-54 covered at least 8,712 miles (14,021 km) at an average of 21 kilometres a day.