Controversial plans to reintroduce wild grey wolves to the western Rocky Mountain slopes of Colorado are moving full steam ahead. This is despite the fact that wolves have already moved in from neighboring states. While the revival of the species is exciting, threats toward livestock have ranchers concerned for their livelihoods.
In January 2022, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) confirmed the state’s first wolf attack on livestock in more than 70 years. In October, the agency in charge of managing human-wildlife conflict within the state also confirmed that wolves were suspected of killing 22 calves and injuring even more.
The storyline dates back to November 2020. That’s when voters approved a ballot measure that started the process of potentially reintroducing the predators to the state. It’s a controversial issue. It has sparked an outcry from ranchers, many of which have already started taking precautions to protect their herds.
Eric Odell, a spokesman for CPW, said that there will be both positive and negative reactions to the reintroduction plan. “The greatest challenges associated with wolf restoration and management are primarily going to come from social and political issues rather than biological ones,” he said.
Plans In Place To Reintroduce 30 to 50 Wild Wolves To Colorado’s Western Slope
According to Field and Stream, the official 293-page Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan developed by CPW went live this past Friday.
The deadline for a wolf reintroduction plan to be published by CPW was prior to the end of 2023. The plan marks the first time that a definitive figure for the number of wolves to be translocated to Colorado from neighboring states has been set. That number is apparently somewhere between 30 and 50.
Letting Wolves Run Wild
The plan includes collaborating with fish and wildlife agencies in other states to capture 10 to 15 wolves from established wolfpacks within their borders. States that will potentially source wolves for reintroduction to Colorado include Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Wolves from those states will be affixed with GPS collars for research purposes and then be set free on Colorado’s Western Slope. It’s important to note that none of the release sites will occur on Colorado’s vast swaths of federal land. All of the selected locations must also be at least 60 miles from tribal land and neighboring states.
Areas picked for wolf reintroduction will be based on two factors. Those factors are ecological suitability and lack of potential conflict with people and livestock. The draft plan will now be subject to public comments and could change based on stakeholder feedback. The final version of the plan will be out on April 6 of next year. Actual on-the-ground wolf reintroduction efforts won’t begin until the end of next year.