Created: 06/04/2014 2:57 PM KAALtv.com
By: SCOTT SMITH
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — California officials decided Wednesday to add the gray wolf to the state's endangered species list, extending protections to the animal.
The state's Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 in favor of the listing, which will keep the animal safe from hunters' crosshairs. The decision requires a second vote in August to become final.
The debate over whether to list the wolf pitted cattle ranchers, who consider the predator a threat to valuable herds, against those who wish to see the packs again flourish.
"We are very concerned about listing the wolf under the California Endangered Species Act," Justin Oldfield, vice president of governmental relationships for the California Cattlemen's Association, said before the vote.
Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity, which leads the push for protection, said there are places where wolves and livestock exist together.
"There are definitely avenues for not only tolerating wolves but accepting wolves," she said. "This was their home before it was ours."
Nationwide, bounty hunting and poisoning drove wolves to widespread extermination in the early 1900s. They have rebounded in recent decades, and federal protections have been lifted in the last several years in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.
The state commission decided to put off a decision at a meeting in April, wishing first to hear more public comment.
The debate comes into focus as a lone wolf — named OR-7 — began roaming into Northern California from Oregon in 2011. That's when the wolf was the seventh in Oregon to be fitted with a GPS tracking collar. There's recent speculation that OR-7 has taken a mate and might be producing young.
(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)