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Wolverines Returning to Colorado

It’s Official: Wolverines Returning to Colorado After Over a Century

SUMMIT COUNTY, COLORADO – In a historic move for wildlife conservation, Governor Jared Polis joined Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) at Loveland Pass to sign SB24-171, authorizing the reintroduction of North American wolverines to Colorado. This initiative aims to restore a native species that was eradicated from the state in the early 1900s.

Thanks to the efforts of bill sponsors Senator Perry Will, Senator Dylan Roberts, Representative Barbara McLachlan, and Representative Tisha Mauro, SB24-171 includes key provisions to ensure the protection of local industries. A crucial aspect is the requirement that wolverines be designated as a nonessential experimental population (10(j) rule) before reintroduction, a step facilitated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listing the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in November 2023.





“I am thrilled to welcome wolverines back to Colorado! A diverse and healthy environment strengthens Colorado’s booming eco-tourism and outdoor recreation sectors,” said Governor Polis. “Today, we begin to add wolverines to the list of animals reintroduced to Colorado, ensuring our state remains the best in the nation for ecodiversity and outdoor enthusiasts.”

Key Components of SB24-171

The bill stipulates that as long as wolverines remain listed as threatened or endangered, CPW will not proceed with reintroduction until they are designated as a nonessential experimental population. CPW will collaborate with federal land management agencies for the release of wolverines on federal lands.

Though conflicts between wolverines and livestock are rare, the legislation includes provisions for compensating livestock owners for any losses. CPW will prepare a report on wolverines before reintroduction and annually for five years post-reintroduction. Additionally, CPW will develop a communications plan to engage with stakeholders and county commissioners in the proposed release areas.

Funding for the reintroduction will come from the Species Conservation Trust Fund, with $750,000 allocated for this purpose in the 2024-25 fiscal year. Importantly, hunting and fishing license revenues will not be used for the reintroduction effort.





The Return of a Native Species

Wolverines, known scientifically as Gulo gulo, are the largest terrestrial members of the weasel family, weighing between 15-40 lbs. Historically, wolverines roamed Colorado’s mountains but were eradicated in the early 20th century due to unregulated hunting and poisoning.

With fewer than 400 wolverines in the contiguous United States, climate change poses a significant threat to their preferred cold, snowy habitats. However, Colorado’s high elevations offer a promising refuge. According to CPW biologists, the state could support 100-180 wolverines, potentially increasing the U.S. wolverine population by over 20%.





Looking Forward

“This legislation represents a significant commitment to restoring a native species back to Colorado’s landscape,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “We have the opportunity to bolster the wolverine population significantly with a science-based restoration.”

CPW Director Jeff Davis emphasized Colorado’s role in wolverine conservation, noting that high elevation habitats in the state are likely to withstand climate change better than other parts of the wolverine’s range. “CPW will continue to work together with partners across the state on wolverine restoration,” Davis added.

Conclusion

The reintroduction of wolverines to Colorado marks a pivotal moment for the state’s wildlife conservation efforts, enhancing both ecological diversity and opportunities for eco-tourism. As the project progresses, continued collaboration and science-based strategies will be crucial for ensuring the successful restoration of this iconic species.





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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