California Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP
Wildlife officials say a large-scale gray wolf, the first to cross southern California in more than a hundred years, has been found dead near a road just over an hour’s drive away. north of downtown Los Angeles.
He appears to have been struck by a vehicle.
The male wolf, named OR93 when fitted with a GPS collar by wildlife officials in his home state of Oregon, left his pack near Mount Hood two years ago. He gained followers and fans in the wildlife community as he traveled south, crossing highways and freeways to parts of California that had not seen a wolf since 1922.
California, like much of the United States, is the habitat of the wolf. Before colonization, large predators covered much of the continent before being hunted, trapped and killed to near extinction by European settlers. The fragmented populations that survived are now smothered in many areas by an ever-growing road network.
The Department of Transportation estimates that 365 million animals are killed on U.S. roads each year, more than the total number of people in the country. The recovery of populations of large carnivores such as wolves, which are trying to repopulate areas, is particularly threatened.
David P Gilkey / NPR
Young male gray wolves are known to travel long distances after leaving their packs. The urge to travel has a biological purpose.
By traveling away from its family, a wolf is more likely to find a mate with a different genetic makeup. It is believed that inbreeding caused a collapse of the gray wolf population on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Efforts to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list in the northern Rockies have been hampered by legal challenges based, in part, on “species connectivity.”
In southern California, wildlife officials have discovered anomalies in an inbred population of cougars, surrounded by busy roads in the area.
Early next year, the state will inaugurate a six-lane overpass on Highway 101 designed to help big cats and other wildlife diversify, after a multi-year push by conservationists. Similar efforts are underway across the country, and the larger effort to ensure safe passage for wildlife has just received a boost in President Biden’s recently passed infrastructure bill.
It designates $ 350 million over the next five years for state, local and tribal governments to build bridges or underpasses for wildlife. An additional $ 400 million will be spent on removing barriers like dams, which suffocate populations of fish and invertebrates.
“Building wildlife crossings will reduce collisions between wildlife and vehicles and is a key conservation strategy to help wildlife survive the impacts of climate change and development,” said Mike Leahy, Director of Wildlife and from hunting and fishing policy to the National Wildlife Federation.
Over a million species are threatened with extinction worldwide, many within decades, due to human activities. World leaders are meeting next year to endorse a plan to slow the biodiversity crisis. Aggressive action is needed to slow the collapse of nature, said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
“Do we want to prevent another COVID-19? She told NPR last year. “Either we conserve and protect nature, biodiversity, or it will make us suffer as we are doing now. ”