Wolf Reintroduction on Colorado’s Western Slope

The voter-approved wildlife recovery plan is to reintroduce 10 to 15 wolves a year on the Western Slope starting before the end of 2023 until reaching a maximum of 50.

The controversial move is encountering a well-understood pushback from ranches and the entire process is coming down to the 10(j) rule where wolves would be considered as nonessential & experimental species, which would allow their killing if they attack livestock.  As of today, wolves as a federally endangered species in the state of Colorado. The last known wolf in CO was killed in 1943  and it’s assumed they are currently a few present in the state as a result of their migration from Wyoming.

The specific areas of the reintroduction are still to be finalized but it has been agreed that they will be within 60 miles of tribal lands and state borders to prevent wolves from roaming beyond their territory. The release points are predicted along the Interstate 70 corridor between Glenwood Springs and Vail, and the U.S. 50 area between Montrose and Monarch Pass.

In addition, Senate Bill 23-255 would help secure funding for compensation to ranchers who lose livestock to wolves. In the newly proposed plan ranchers would get compensated up to $15,000 for losing livestock or herding animals, and receive up to $15,000 more for related veterinary expenses.

What is the feedback from the ranching community?

Their concerns go well beyond just cattle – from hunting to dogs and horses – their business and livelihoods can be affected. The ranching industry is hard and adding wolf pressure will make it even more difficult. Although the release is not set to happen till later this year, ranchers in the area are already preparing for it. Some of the techniques used are the introduction of feral donkeys to work as “guardian animals”,  red flags, flashing lights, and cracker shells – all considered non-lethal solutions. 

The Parks and Wildlife Commission is set to consider approving the reintroduction plan at its May 3 and May 4 meeting in Glenwood Springs.

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