RETURNING WOLVES TO COLORADO
Help Make Sure It’s Done the Right Way
What’s the situation with Colorado’s wolves right now?
Voters approved Proposition 114 in 2020 to start reintroducing gray wolves into Colorado by the end of 2023. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is now developing a plan to restore and manage wolves — but with the livestock industry leading the development process, the plan could actually support a recurring wolf slaughter.
How did we get here?
Colorado once sustained thousands of wolves with bison, pronghorns, elk and deer. But white settlement eliminated most prey animals and introduced livestock, which the wolves preyed on instead. To protect the livestock industry, the federal government systematically exterminated wolves, in 1945 trapping and killing the last wolf likely born in the western United States, in southwestern Colorado’s South San Juan Mountains.
After wolves were reintroduced in the northern Rocky Mountains in the mid-1990s, several dispersed into Colorado but didn’t establish a population — one was shot, one was poisoned, another was hit by a car, and a wolf family spotted in 2019 suspiciously disappeared. A later-arriving, naturally occurring wolf family in North Park, in north central Colorado, has had all three of its radio-collared wolves mysteriously — and suspiciously — disappear; at least four two-year-old siblings survive.
If Colorado properly develops its plan to restore and manage wolves, they could find mates among wolves to be reintroduced in 2023. But the wolf reintroduction planning process points to development of a wolf-killing plan not based on biology.
What can people do?
The most important thing right now is to make sure the state’s plan guarantees wolves’ long-term viability and their efficacy in restoring the natural balance in Colorado, which is one of the law’s goals. That means the plan must include measures to compel the livestock industry to prevent wolf predation on livestock, as well as recovery criteria measured in part by improvements in the status of other animals and habitat, which wolves have been shown to benefit in Yellowstone and elsewhere. The plan should also provide for releasing Mexican gray wolves in the San Juan Mountains to aid this critically endangered subspecies.
The law calls for Colorado to start reintroducing wolves by December 31, 2023, and to develop a restoration and management plan using the best available science and timely input gained from statewide public hearings. Colorado Parks and Wildlife disregarded the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies’ advice on a process with integrity.
Unfortunately, the plan soon to be presented to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission would ignore modern science and wouldn’t be subject to statewide public hearings until it would be too late to change course. That’s no surprise, considering that the advisory groups developing the plan — groups created by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and with their appointees — support wolf-killing and oppose mandates to prevent their predation on livestock.
The Center’s comments on the plan request that ranchers be required to dispose of carrion from domestic animals that weren’t killed by wolves before wolves scavenge on them and are drawn close to vulnerable livestock, and that there be human presence or equivalent protection close to stock to prevent predation by wolves. Our comments propose delisting criteria and include scientific studies that Colorado Parks and Wildlife should consider.
If you live in Colorado, please contact Gov. Jared Polis, your state representative and senator, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners. Tell them to follow the law: Use the best available science, convene statewide public hearings now, and — as the law now requires — make sure the plan supports restoration of nature’s critical balance.
Northern Rockies wolves still need your help.