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How some ranchers, wolf advocates and hunters are working together to reintroduce wolves into Colorado

Wolves
Posted at 7:53 AM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 09:53:41-04

MEEKER  — Conversations are in the works about how and when gray wolves will be reintroduced into the state after voters approved the decision in 2020.

Multiple groups are trying to figure out how to best bring the wolves back into Colorado.

From the mountains to miles of open space, Colorado's outdoors are a big draw for residents and tourists alike.

After voters approved reintroducing gray wolves in the state in the 2020 election, people who enjoy the state's outdoors for different reasons are trying to find common ground.

"We wiped out a species in our state that belongs because it was part of our natural heritage, and we should have it back,” said Gary Skiba, Wildlife Manager for San Juan Citizen's Alliance.

Gary Skiba believes bringing wolves into the state will balance our state’s ecosystem. He's working with hunters and ranchers like Lenny Klinglesmith to figure out a solution.

"Do you think that some ranchers are becoming more accepting of wolves being reintroduced to Colorado,” asked News5 reporter, Caroline Peters.

"They've been a little misrepresented as haters of wildlife and they aren't,” said Klinglesmith.

Ranchers, hunters and wolf advocates, are all different groups but they all tell me they feel as if they have something in common. They all feel misunderstood, especially when it comes to conversations about wolf reintroduction.

This is why Colorado Parks and Wildlife is bringing all of them together through a Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG).

The SAG is working directly with the Technical Working Group, another group brought aboard by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, to develop a well-sought plan to reintroduce gray wolves into the state by December of 2023.

It’s a way to hear from everyone that could be impacted by the reintroduction process.

"I don't think any entity will get everything they're after. Hopefully, we can find a compromise. I kind of see through both lenses of the issue,” said Adam Gall.

Gall is an outfitter in southwest Colorado and a former wolf biologist in Idaho, a state that reintroduced gray wolves in the 90s.

He's been a part of this process to bring hunters, ranchers, and advocates together. Gall says hunting is an incredible feeling and he has years of experience amongst the wildlife.

"In a way, it's a very freedom-inducing thing. It's a great liberty and it's a huge privilege that we have as citizens of this country,” said Gall.

"How close have you been to wolves,” asked News5 reporter, Caroline Peters.

"Well, I used to trap them, so handling them in that way," said Gall.

Gall says there are many myths that accompany wolves in the wild, but he can understand the concern some hunters who view wolves as competition may have. He says overall wolves won't impact hunters too much in the state.

"Localized effects are certainly realistic but the concept or the myth that wolves will kill all the elk that doesn't hold water in my opinion,” said Gall.

Ranchers like Klinglesmith have concerns for their livelihood with wolves coming into the state. He says talking through this with others has been eye-opening.

"Finding a way to continue ranching and continue the business for my daughters and their kids our generations to come, that's the real goal for me in this whole process,” said Klinglesmith.

As predators, Gall believes that wolves have a direct role in the state's ecology. This is a point those on the wolf advocacy side continue to make.

"That's a role that isn't being fulfilled right now. Other animals do not replace wolves," said Skiba.

Skiba says while we don't know for sure how deer and elk populations will be impacted in Colorado, we can look at wolf behaviors in Yellowstone, and the types of prey hunted.

"The majority of the animals have some vulnerability. Sometimes that vulnerability is an illness, sometimes it's an injury, sometimes it's deep snow,” said Skiba.

While each group brings a different piece of knowledge, they all can agree they're making strides in understanding one another and finding solutions.

"Ultimately, I think a balance can be found,” said Gall.

"It's been very viable to have a good conversation with people from a diverse aspect,” said Klinglesmith.

"We have come together, and I think developed relationships which I think is the most important thing,” said Skiba.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has not yet picked a date on when they will start reintroducing wolves into the state.
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