CDFW Director Discusses Gray Wolf Impacts & Mitigation with Lassen Supervisors


Chuck Bonham, Director for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, virtually attends the Lassen Supervisors’ May 9th meeting to address growing concerns of wolf conflict in the county. Bonham apologized for not being present in person, much to the supervisor’s disapproval, after nearly a year of trying to connect with the CDFW director.

Wolves began to impact the county producers in 2014 when the first wolves appeared. Since then, the Whlaeback and Lassen packs have produced several litters, with some of the males dispersing into other areas of the state. Recently wolves from the Lassen pack have been in conflict with producers who have lost a handful of yearling calves this year, one even lost in Ash Valley by attacks from three young wolves from the whaleback pack who unusually traveled over 85 miles out of their typical range. Bonham says this activity is not unprecedented in the winter, and the department believes the three have since returned to their home range. Bonham assured the county that despite more wolves in the state and a record-setting year for litters from the whaleback pack, wolf pack sizes are not expanding. Saying the packs are doing what they are biologically expected to do, producing litters and dispersing. This meaning the Lassen pack would stay within an average size of around 5 to 6 wolves in their established 500 square mile home range in Lassen and Plumas. Though that does not mean additional packs could become established throughout the over 4,000 square miles of Lassen County.

To address the many additional concerns of the supervisors, Bonham said they are currently working on several pilot programs in Siskiyou County to reduce wolf producer conflict with methods such as hazing and cache food supplies to intercept the wolves to nourish and supplement during the winter before they reach livestock herds. The director agreed more collaring of the wolves was also necessary and recognized it had been a struggle saying there is not enough staff dedicated to the effort, with only two regional conflict specialists in the northern part of the state who can only dedicate 50% of their efforts to wolves, one wolf specialist, and one jr support staff member. Though Bonham added they expect to bring on board a statewide wolf coordinator by June.

The CDFW director plans to return before the supervisors in the next month or so to continue the conversation, answer any further questions, and develop an action plan for mitigating apex predators in the county, with what funding is allowed through the legislature.

The CDFW currently offers a two-prong approach for producer wolf conflict through direct loss payments, with nearly 700,000 dollars in payouts in progress, a deterrent compensation, and set to be released this month a third approach of pay for presence.

You can learn more about wolf-livestock compensation grants by visiting the CDFW Gray Wolf Page.


Photo: CDFW Livestock Loss Determination, Confirmed Wolf Kill in Eastern Siskiyou County, Investigation date March 16, 2023