Colorado wolf reintroduction

Colorado Wolf Reintroduction Leads to First Calf Depredation in Grand County

GRAND COUNTY, COLORADO – In a striking development following Colorado’s controversial wolf reintroduction program, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) confirmed the first case of wolf depredation in Grand County, resulting in the death of a calf. This incident comes amid ongoing debates about wildlife conservation, livestock safety, and the economic impact on ranchers.

Incident Details

According to CPW, the attack occurred on Tuesday, with field investigations revealing “multiple tooth rake marks” on the calf’s hindquarters and neck, alongside hemorrhaging under the hide—hallmarks of wolf depredation. The presence of wolf tracks near the scene further corroborated the involvement of a wolf, as stated by Area Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington in a press release.

This incident marks the first depredation event since CPW’s release of 10 gray wolves on Colorado’s Western Slope between December and January, a move aimed at the species’ reintroduction as mandated by a voter-approved ballot measure. Prior to this state-led effort, wolf attacks were recorded in Jackson County, hinting at the complexities surrounding the return of these predators.

Reaction and Response

The attack has sparked renewed discussions around defining “chronic depredation” and the measures that can be taken when wolves threaten livestock. The current guidelines, influenced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 10(j) rule, allow for lethal intervention under specific circumstances, a provision aimed at balancing conservation efforts with the protection of livestock.

Tim Ritschard, president of the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association, expressed hope that this incident would catalyze clearer guidelines on managing wolf-livestock conflicts. The debate touches on broader issues of wildlife management, rancher rights, and the intricate dance of coexistence between humans and reintroduced species.

Colorado's Wolf Reintroduction
A photo of the initial wolf release in December, 2023.

Legislation and Compensation

In light of these challenges, Colorado lawmakers have been proactive in creating a financial safety net for affected ranchers. A bill passed in 2023 allocates $350,000 annually to a compensation fund, providing up to $15,000 per animal killed or injured by wolves. This legislative effort underscores the state’s commitment to both conservation and supporting the agricultural community.

Looking Ahead

As CPW continues to monitor the wolves, released with tracking collars, and plans monthly updates on their movements, the conversation around wolf reintroduction is far from over. The dynamics between wildlife conservation, economic sustainability, and community values remain complex, requiring nuanced approaches to ensure the thriving of both native species and local livelihoods.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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