Colorado rancher Don Gittleson is looking for answers after his cattle became prey for recently reintroduced wolves, costing him thousands of dollars along the way.
Gittleson’s rach is north of Walden, nearly 100 miles west of Fort. Collins, near the Wyoming state line. Sadly, Gittleson believes his livestock situation is bound to get much worse before it gets any better.
“When there are wolves on the landscape, (ranchers) have lost animals to wolves,” Gittleson said in a recent interview. “And we haven’t figured out to stop that yet. Odds are that’s not going to stop.”
Since the appearance of the wolves, Gittleson has lost nearly ten cows and calves. While Colorado Parks and Wildlife has paid for some of the cattle, they’ve also refused to pay for others. As a result, it’s left Gittleson to pay the bill.
However, it’s not just Gittleson and his cattle who’ve been the victims of the wolf pack.
According to a news release from last fall, the agency investigated reports of deaths of dozens of calves in Colorado that could result from the predatory animals.
In 2020, Colorado residents voted on Proposition 114, which passed by 56,986 votes. The Proposition requires Colorado Parks and Wildlife to reintroduce and monitor gray wolves west of the Continental Divide by Dec. 31, 2023.
Last Thursday, the agency had the first of five public hearings on the proposed wolf management plan in Colorado Springs. The meeting was to inform Coloradoans of the status of the draft plan and take questions.
Colorado residents divided over reintroduction of wolves
Darlene Kobobel, a member of the agency’s Stakeholders Advisory Group and founder of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, believes the wolf reintroduction is a good idea.
“I feel that the reintroduction should be a positive event in history after almost 80 years of being absent from native land. The wolf is a symbol of freedom, loyalty, strength, and the spirit of nature,” she said.
However, some are concerned about the implications for the area’s vulnerable livestock. Michelle Smith, who resides in rural Fremont County, which is also an area designated for wolf reintroduction, is worried. She voiced concerns about the sheer number of wolves that would be released into the area.
According to the agency, 200 is the current floor number that can be considered a viable population. Any higher and the agency can consider monitored and controlled wolf hunting.
“The very tiny numbers for down-listing is reflective of pretty outdated science from the reintroduction into Yellowstone and Idaho in the mid-nineties,” Smith said. “So, per the wording of Prop 114, the best scientific data available should be used to develop the plan, and data from the 1980s and nineties doesn’t seem to be that best available science.
“We know that Colorado can sustain about a thousand wolves. We don’t want Colorado to follow the footsteps of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and so far, it’s been disappointing to see CPW looking to those three states for guidance in this process.”