The California Fish and Game Commission declined to stop a planned coyote hunt this weekend in Modoc County, where a gun club has offered a silver belt buckle to the hunter who kill the most coyotes.
"None of us, including hunters, should tolerate the gratuitous slaughter of wildlife as part of a contest to win prizes," said Camilla Fox, executive director, Project Coyote.
Wildlife supporters are worried for California's only-known gray wolf, known as "OR-7" and "Journey." The wolf has developed quite a following since a radio collar attached to him has tracked his every move.
A Twitter account stated his last known location to be Tehama County, about 90 miles from the hunt.
Critics of the hunt say the lone wolf can easily travel the distance and be mistaken for a coyote during the contest.
"There's legitimate concern that Journey could be killed by an overzealous coyote hunter," said Fox.
But owners of livestock say similar hunts have happened for years. They need the hunt to proceed because coyotes are a nuisance.
"They cause 65 percent of the predator-loss to livestock in California," said Margo Parks, a California Cattlemen's Association spokeswoman. "And it's about $4 million for cattle and about $1.3 million for sheep. So it's a serious economic loss."
The Commission couldn't really stop this hunt because it wasn't on the agenda, but the state agreed to have wardens present.
"Our department will be advising the hunt promoters and the hunters on the day of the event that the gray wolf is a state and federally protected animal, and that the shooting of a wolf would be a violation of such law," said Chuck Bonham, Calif. Fish and Wildlife director.
The hope is Journey stays alive to find a mate, especially now since it's prime wolf-mating season.
Other wolves who aren't on radio-monitors occasionally wander into California.
"He's looking for love right now. There's a short window of time. If he doesn't find his lady in the next month or so, he's going to have to wait another year to find someone who's ready for him," said Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity.
The state is willing to talk to groups about future coyote-hunting contests, possibly opening the door to limiting or banning them.