CPW Plans to Introduce More Wolves; Issue Generating “Uproar” in Rural Areas
Trevor Phipps and Rick Langenberg
Despite the fact that Colorado’s wolf reintroduction plan was passed by voters over three years ago, the issue has recently hit the front stage of debate across the state after the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division (CPW) released 10 wolves into the state last month.
The agency then announced intentions to add about 10 to 15 more at the end of the year, based on a new agreement with Indigenous tribes in Washington state.
Altogether, under the latest proposal, the wolf population on state lands in Grant and Summit counties, could exceed packs of more than 30. No wolves, though, are being slated for release in Teller County. The wolf release program does initially permit a total capture of 35 to 50 wolves.
Even though many applaud wolf reintroduction and see it as a way to balance the ecosystem, others see it as bad news for ranchers and hunters. So far, there haven’t been any reported incidents involving the recently relocated wolves, but there have been a few sightings near Summit and Grand Counties where the wolves were released.
The wolf situation, though, is getting the strong attention of local leaders, with Teller County Commission Vice-chairman Dan Williams, who serves on a CPW wildlife committee, reporting a virtual “uproar” among ranchers in certain parts of Colorado. The wolf reintroduction subject has ignited a flurry of comments on social media, with vastly different opinions. The wolf brouhaha has definitely turned into a love-hate relationship locally with these somewhat wild animals, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Williams addressed the issue at a recent county commissioners meeting.
The first two rounds of wolf releases last year were the start to several more coming into the state in the near future. CPW plans to release 10 to 15 wolves per year for the next three to five years until there is a total population of wolves in the state of 50 or more.
Earlier this month, the CPW issued a press release stating that they have secured a source for the next 15 wolves that will be released in the state between December 2024 and March 2025. The first 10 wolves brought to the state as a part of the reintroduction plan came from Oregon after states like Montana, Wyoming and Idaho declined to give Colorado wolves.
The next set of 15 wolves will come from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation located in Washington State. “The Colville Tribes is very pleased to partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to restore the wolf population in Colorado,” Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Jarred-Michael Erickson said in the press release issued by CPW. “The Colville people strongly believe in preserving our environment, including its fish and animals. We are thrilled that our restoration efforts on our own lands have progressed far enough that we can share some of these magnificent creatures with the citizens of Colorado.”
State officials have described the first part of the plan, which resulted in the earlier capture of about 10 gray wolves in Oregon, as an “incredible success.” “We are grateful to the Confederate Tribes of the Colville Reservation for working with our agency on this critical next step in reintroducing gray wolves in the state,” said CPW Director Jeff Davis.
CPW Under Fire For Poor Communication
In the last few weeks since the wolves have been reintroduced, ranchers across the state have said that CPW has not been communicating well with them to help appease concerns that wolves will kill livestock. “Really haven’t heard much from CPW, mostly it’s just been locals and local sightings,” Tim Ritschard, a fifth-generation rancher in Grand County told 9 News in Denver.
Many ranchers have said that they have enough trouble protecting their livestock from predators like coyotes, mountain lions and bears before having to worry about wolves as well. The biggest issue is that the ranchers would like to know where the wolves are because as the weather warms up the cattle spread out across the ranches.
“You sit there and wonder, kind of look around and go maybe I’ll see them,” Ritschard told 9 News. “It’s been uneasy, not knowing where everything is, not knowing are they in your area, are they around. That’s your biggest worry, is you go down there one day and here’s 10 dead calves, or 10 dead cows and then what?”
Teller County Commissioners Discuss Wolf Reintroduction
During a regular Teller County Commissioners meeting on Jan. 23, Williams, who sits on the CPW Wildlife Council, addressed issues residents have expressed with the recent wolf reintroduction effort. He conceded that he has received a number of calls about the wolf reintroduction program.
“We received a wolf update about 10 days ago and all 10 wolves are still in Colorado, they are alive and look like they are doing well,” Williams said. “To date, they have no evidence of any predation against cows or livestock or domestic animals. They do know what they are eating.”
Williams said that the reintroduction has caused an “uproar” with ranchers and many who live in Summit and Grand Counties, where the wolves were initially released. He said that many question why CPW can’t say exactly where the wolves are even though all of the wild canines released into the state are equipped with GPS collars that give wildlife officials their location.
“The comments that came back were actually pretty intellectual,” Williams explained. “They (CPW officials) said, ‘Look half of you will want to kill them and the other half will want to love them to death.’ So, what they have agreed to do is tell you where they were.”
Williams said that in a couple of weeks the public will be able to go on a website and see where the wolves have travelled. “They really are trying to give them a chance to settle down,” the county commissioner said.
So far, there hasn’t been any reported sightings of wolves in Teller County, but many believe this could just a matter of time prior to this scenario. Previous research suggests that wolves can travel up to 150 miles before they find where they want to settle down.
Although the exact locations where the wolves were released are unknown, Summit and Grand counties, where the animals were relocated, are both located within a 150-mile radius from Teller.