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Finalizing Colorado's wolf reintroduction plan

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jan 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-20 11:47:20-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The first in a series of public comment sessions for the draft Colorado wolf reintroduction plan was just held in Colorado Springs.

It is the lead-up to a final okay by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

The plan needs to be finalized because the narrowly voter-approved Proposition 114 requires that Gray Wolves be introduced back into Colorado by the end of 2023.

“My concerns are with lethal control,” said one commentator.

The portion of the draft getting the most comment has to do with the policies for when lethal measures can be used to deal with wolf-caused threats.

The draft contains parameters for both lethal and non-lethal management.

Related to the control issue is compensation to ranchers or anyone who loses animals to a wolf attack.

Ranchers say the $8,000 cap will often leave them in the hole, especially if prize stock is killed.

“One of the animals taken by a wolf, ten thousand dollars is not going to replace that steer of heifer,” said a rancher who drove from the Gunnison Valley to comment.

Most members of a volunteer advisory group made up of wolf supporters, ranchers, and other diverse stakeholders say the plan will never please everyone but will work.

“One thing is when we worked through those meetings, no one really got what they wanted,” said former Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture and rancher, Tom Kourlis, “I think we all got kind of something we could live with.”

Major Highlights of the Plan include:

Livestock conflicts and compensation

  • CPW will reintroduce 30 to 50 wolves in total over the next 3 - 5 years (10-15 animals per year).
  • Wolves will likely be sourced from populations in the northern Rockies in cooperation with the respective state wildlife agencies. 
  • Captured wolves will be reintroduced onto state and cooperating private lands in select areas west of the Continental Divide with a 60-mile buffer from neighboring states.

Legal Status Monitoring and Management

  • Wolves are both Federally and State protected as an Endangered Species in Colorado. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is engaged in a process to designate the Colorado wolf population as Experimental under Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. As wolf populations grow, Colorado’s gray wolf protection status may be downlisted from a State Endangered species to a State Threatened species. Wolves would no longer be included on the Colorado State Threatened and Endangered Species List should the population be recovered to 150 wolves for 2 successive years or 200 wolves with no time constraint.
  • CPW will place GPS monitoring collars on reintroduced wolves, and monitor wolf packs as they develop in the coming years.
  • The draft plan describes an impact-based management philosophy. Wolves will have both positive and negative impacts in the state. If wolves are causing a negative impact, CPW will utilize multiple management tools including education, nonlethal tools, and in rare cases involving wolf depredation lethal management to resolve the problem.
  • Wolves will be managed within Colorado using a phased approach, based on the number of animals present in the state.
  • The plan does not permit a regulated wolf hunt.

Restoration logistics

  • CPW’s Draft Conflict Minimization Program may provide temporary conflict minimization materials to livestock owners which include turbo fladry, shell-crackers, propane cannons and fox lights to prevent depredation incidents.
  • Wolf-livestock conflicts will be addressed on a case-by-case basis using a combination of appropriate management tools, including education, non-lethal conflict minimization techniques, damage payments and lethal take of wolves in rare cases specifically involving depredation.
  • If a depredation incident is confirmed by CPW, livestock owners can be reimbursed the fair market value of the animal, up to $8,000. The plan allows for reimbursement of veterinarian costs for the treatment of injured livestock or guard/herding animals.
  • In large open range settings, livestock owners will have the option of compensation for some production losses or indirect costs like decreased conception rates and other indirect losses on a case-by-case basis.
  • By statute, wolf depredation reimbursements will not be sourced from hunting and fishing license fees or associated federal grants.

Click here to see the draft plan and learn about future wolf restoration public comment session

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