Wolves at the Door

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I've always loved wolves, but it wasn't until I joined a feminist group reading the book "Women who Run with Wolves" that I almost became one. My friends and I would lap up every word about our wild woman nature, then form a circle to howl at the moon.

As liberating as this felt, my passion soon morphed into something more studious. I read every book I could find on wolves, thrilling over their intelligence, recoiling at their cruel treatment at the hands of man.

Wolves were depicted as Satan in the Bible and villains in children's fairytales. Hunted nearly to extinction in the lower-48, California's last wolf was shot 90 years ago. Today, some people in the livestock industry still believe the only good wolf is a dead wolf, even in Oregon where 80 wolves share the state with 1,500,000 cows.

Against all odds, the federal government restored wolves to the northern Rockies in the '90s. Contrary to dire predictions, ecosystems began to recover from years of over-browse by deer and elk. Eventually, several descendants of these wolves disbursed, some to Oregon.

A few years ago, Journey, the most famous of these descendants, traveled through Oregon to California then back again, spurring the California Fish and Game Commission to place wolves on the state's endangered species list, even though there were no wolves here at the time. This decision was made at a hearing during which a speaker proudly announced, as if talking about her own grandchildren, that Journey had found a mate and produced two pups only miles north of the California line.


Journey and his family remain in Oregon, but another wolf recently arrived in our state. With him are a female and five pups. Dubbed the Shasta Pack, these wolves are now protected by California's Endangered Species Act.

Perhaps it's inherent in humans to love stories of renewal, and there's no better one than the story of Canis lupus' return to California. Welcome home, wolves. Maybe we can run together one of these days.

With a Perspective, I'm Carol Arnold.

Carol Arnold is an environmental planner. She lives in San Francisco.