DENVER, COLORADO | December 14, 2023 — In a significant environmental move, Colorado is poised to reintroduce wolves into the wild as early as Monday, a decision that marks the culmination of extensive planning and legal proceedings. This initiative, led by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), will see wolves transported from Oregon to Colorado, possibly beginning Sunday.
Lisa Reynolds from the state attorney general’s office detailed the complex logistics involved in this process, emphasizing the effort to meet voter requirements and the governor’s preference to adhere to a strict deadline. The planning has been extensive, taking into consideration various factors including weather and transportation methods for the wolves.
The reintroduction follows Proposition 114, passed in 2020 by a narrow margin, which mandates the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado before the year’s end. The plan faced opposition, notably from the Gunnison County Stockgrowers’ and the Colorado Cattlemen’s associations, who filed a lawsuit seeking to delay the process. Their concern is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not conduct thorough environmental impact reviews. However, state lawyers described the lawsuit as a last-minute attempt to derail a long-underway project.
The wolves will be released in either Eagle, Grand, or Summit counties, on state or private lands. CPW intends to capture five wolves in Oregon, tranquilize them, and then transport them to Colorado. Due to the capacity constraints of the transport airplane, only five wolves can be flown at a time, with driving as a possible alternative.
Amidst concerns from ranchers about potential livestock losses, the state has established a $15,000 compensation fund for each livestock killed by wolves. Additionally, a 10(j) ruling by the federal government allows ranchers to kill wolves if they attack their livestock.
Tips for Avoiding Wolf Conflicts
For those living in or visiting areas where wolves will be reintroduced, it’s crucial to remember that wolf attacks on humans and predation on livestock are rare. Since 1944, there have been only four fatal wolf attacks in the United States, all in Alaska. In 2014, wolves killed just 136 head of cattle, representing only 0.00223% of the total cattle population.
To minimize the risk of conflict:
- Secure Livestock and Pets: Keep livestock in wolf-resistant fencing and do not leave pets unattended, especially at night.
- Dispose of Food and Waste Properly: Wolves are attracted to food scraps and garbage. Ensure all food and waste are securely stored.
- Be Alert at Dawn and Dusk: Wolves are most active during these times. Be extra cautious if you’re outdoors.
- Make Noise: If you encounter a wolf, make yourself appear larger and make loud noises to scare it away. Do not run.
- Stay Informed: Keep updated on wolf movements and sightings in your area.
This reintroduction marks a significant step in Colorado’s wildlife management and conservation efforts, balancing ecological benefits with the needs and concerns of local communities.