Following a federal court ruling, gray wolves are now back on the U.S.’s endangered species list (through most of the lower 48), resulting in some obstacles for Colorado and its wolf reintroduction efforts.
Initially, in 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intended to delist the wolves, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife beat the organization to the punch. In 2020, Colorado voters approved wolf reintroduction, and the official delisting occurred soon after. This put the state’s Park and Wildlife department in charge of the reintroduction in January 2021.
But clearly, this didn’t last long.
According to the court system, the delisting was never truly valid.
“In essence, (the ruling) said the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it delisted wolves, and in order to remedy that violation, the delisting rule had to be vacated and sent back,” said Lisa Reynolds, an assistant state attorney general, to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
That’s how three simultaneous lawsuits in the Northern District of California challenged the delisting. This then caused the responding judge to toss out the initial decision of Colorado voters. Thus, the wolves are back on the endangered list.
Why Does the New Federal Ruling Affect the Wolf Reintroduction Efforts in Colorado?
To put it simply, when wolves are on the endangered list, they can’t as easily be reintroduced back into the ecosystem. Whereas Colorado Parks and Wildlife could oversee the efforts when the wolves were voted off the endangered list, now, they need the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “co-pilot” the operation.
The state also now requires federal environmental reviews in order to implement any new plans. The reintroduction isn’t totally void, however
“We need to work very closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now,” DeWalt said. “It will be a big lift on all our parts.”
Colorado Implementing New Wildlife Techniques for Wolf Reintroduction
Additionally, all ‘hazing” methods used to scare wolves away from livestock are now under review. This means that Colorado’s newest and most creative method might not stick for very long. Recently, the state’s wildlife department decided to see how burros worked within a herd of cattle.
In other states, like Oregon, the cross-species partnership has been successful. Burros tend to scare off predators by kicking, stomping and chasing them. Colorado hoped that this would be a great way to move forward with the wolf reintroduction program without losing too many cows.
“The idea is to make the burros become a part of the cattle herd to where they will start to protect or consider the cattle as a member of its family,” said CPW officer Zach Weaver in a press release. “We learned that wild burros are more effective because they’ve been in the wild where they’ve had to defend themselves and their herd from predation from animals like mountain lions and coyotes.”
Hopefully, the federal department will approve of the efforts and continue implementing burros into the equation.