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California Grants Gray Wolf Endangered Species Protection

Jun 05, 2014 03:10 PM EDT

Prompted by the resurgence of the gray wolf in the West, the state stepped up Wednesday and voted to extend endangered species protections to gray wolves.

The state's Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 in favor of the addition to their protected endangered species list, banning hunters from targeting gray wolves. But, officials will have to vote again in August to make the ruling official.

"I was hopeful that the commission would place a lot of value in that recommendation," Noelle Cremers of the California Farm Bureau Federation, which opposed the revision, told the Los Angeles Times.

Although no wolves are known to exist in California, the state expects future sightings as their numbers continue to grow - they were first introduced to the region in Yellowstone National Park 20 years ago.

The debate comes into focus as wildlife officials in Oregon spotted two pups believed to be the offspring of OR-7, the young male wolf that back in 2011 starting wandering between Oregon and Northern California.

Starting in the early 1990s, bounty hunting and poisoning drove national gray wolf populations to dangerously low levels, the Associated Press reported, and only now does it seem that they are starting to make a comeback.

Cattle ranchers, however, are not pleased, and see the gray wolf as a threat to their livestock herds, while some wildlife officials insist that the wolves aren't endangered at all.

"We are very concerned about listing the wolf under the California Endangered Species Act," commented Justin Oldfield, vice president of the California Cattlemen's Association.

President Michael Sutton, a former ranger in Yellowstone National Park, could not disagree more.

"There is no more iconic animal in the American West than this one. We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them recolonize their historic range in our state," he said, according to the LA Times.

However, further complicating the issue is the US Fish and Wildlife Service's pending proposal to remove protections for all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. It also proposes to add the subspecies of Mexican wolves to federal endangered species list.

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