Colorado Wolf Restoration Unveils First Draft
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has released the first draft of the highly anticipated Wolf Restoration and Management Plan, and it’s a whopping 270 pages to work through. Instead of you having to read through the lengthy document, we thought it would be helpful to look at some of the highlights and potential drawbacks of the critical reintroduction plan.
Wolf Killing Remains On The Table
At the WCC, we advocate the essential nature of all wolves as individuals, not just the numbers they represent to the overall species. As we’ve seen in several other states where wolves have slowly begun to regain a foothold, the proposed Colorado plan fails to require ranchers to use proactive non-lethal measures to deter wolves from preying on livestock. The plan even neglects to require ranchers to practice basic animal husbandry, like removing livestock from the landscape once they’ve died. Although wolves are predators, they’re also opportunistic scavengers, and an attractant like a carcass can draw wolves into the vicinity of vulnerable living cows and sheep. This is dangerous for the farm animals and poses a threat to the wolves, too, because Colorado’s plan would allow the killing of the wolves that they deem responsible.
The wording of Proposition 114, which was passed in Colorado in 2020 and paved the way for this reintroduction plan, says the wolf population much reach “self-sustaining” levels, which sounds ideal on the surface. However, the proposed draft says the wolves will lose state protections once they reach a population of 150 wolves. Leading science surrounding sustainability says that the number should be much higher, with a minimum of 750 wolves often being cited as a more practical number. Even so, that focus minimizes the value of individual wolves, which we believe are all essential and deserve protection.
A Notable Absence
While we did mention last week that it was encouraging that some of the talks surrounding this Wolf Restoration Plan did mention a future that might include Mexican gray wolves, they are notably absent in this first draft, despite Mexican gray wolves being one of the most endangered mammals in North America and desperately in need of safe environments to rebuild their wild numbers. In addition to the lack of consideration for Mexican gray wolves, who could potentially thrive in Southwestern Colorado, the Gray wolves that are being proposed are going to be somewhat limited geographically. In its current form, wolves are set to be limited to a small area on the western slope, neglecting a wide and appropriate habitat west of the continental divide.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this is only the beginning, and they are still seeking input from the public. According to the release: “The details of the draft plan could change before a final plan is approved by the Commission in 2023, and the Commission will discuss and take feedback from the public at five upcoming meetings and through an online form.
The primary goal of the draft plan is to identify the steps needed to recover and maintain a viable, self-sustaining wolf population in Colorado, while also working to minimize wolf-related conflicts with domestic animals, other wildlife and people.”