California officials agreed to extend endangered species protection to gray wolves.
Gray wolves were not native in California, yet their numbers continued to increase after being integrated into Yellowstone National Park's ecosystem . In a 3-1 vote, the California Fish and Game Commission decided not to follow the Department of Fish and Wildlife's suggestion to halt protection to the wolves, which were considered pests when they attack herds of cattle and elk.
"I was hopeful that the commission would place a lot of value in that recommendation," Noelle Cremers of the California Farm Bureau Federation told the Los Angeles Times. The federation is not in favor of declaring the wolves as endangered.
California now joins Washington and Oregon, which have also agreed to protect gray wolves and see to it that they could repopulate freely.
On Wednesday, wildlife officials from Oregon reported seeing two young pups, believed to be the children of OR-7.
"Just last month, we were excited to hear that our favorite wandering wolf and part-time Californian, 'OR-7' may be starting a family near the California border - we are just ecstatic to see that this has now been confirmed by photos of his adorable pups," a press release stated.
OR-7 is a male gray wolf that started wandering between Northern California and Oregon in 2011. Environmental officials attached a radio transmitter to track him as he wandered for 1,200 miles state-to-state.
Before the voting took place, the state board conducted a three-hour hearing in Fortuna in Humboldt County. Some attendees fervently called for the grey wolves' protection; some even wore wolf costumes. Before this meeting, the committee also conducted a series of public meetings to ensure that all sides of the story were heard.
The opposition expressed their disappointment with the board's decision, worried that the ruling would impede health and rancher's profits. Without the gray wolf protection, ranchers could shoot the wolf that attacks and kills livestock.
"Something as benign as chasing a wolf off your property could be a violation of the law now," Kirk Wilbur of the California Cattlemen's Association told the Associated Press.