Guarding Against Killer Wolves in Teller County

Attacks on the Rise; Ranchers Seeking Lethal Removal of Wild Canines

Trevor Phipps


When the idea of reintroducing wolves in Colorado was narrowly approved by voters in 2020, ranchers and many who live in rural areas of the state warned that the wild canines may endanger the state’s livestock industry and cause a variety of other problems.

And now just a few months after the first set of wolves arrived, a huge hike in wolf-related attacks and deaths have occurred, putting precious cattle and guard dogs at risk.  Plus, concerns are starting to mount regarding the wolf packs edging closer to Teller County.

The controversy has prompted a response by Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams, who serves as a member of the Colorado Wildlife Council. He is urging residents, who are concerned about the wolf situation, not to blame local game wardens.

The furor over growing wolf attacks, though, has escalated statewide, with some ranchers, saying, “We told you this was going to happen.”

Ever since the first attack took place, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division (CPW) has been blasted by ranchers in the counties where the wolf depredations occurred for not being transparent. As more cattle deaths occurred, ranchers have now asked the governor and CPW for the “immediate lethal removal for two specific wolves” that are believed to have been responsible for the livestock casualties.


But as of press time, the CPW and Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ office had still not responded to the request sent to them in a letter by The Middle Park Stockgrowers Association. According to the Coloradoan, the organization sent a letter on April 18 and then another on April 22 after not getting a response from the governor or any other state official.

In the letter, the rancher organization blamed CPW for irresponsibly relocating wolves from Oregon that had a history of chronic livestock depredations after they had originally promised not to do so. They also urged the state to define “chronic depredation” which it has yet to officially do.


After the first case of wolf depredation, many ranchers claimed that CPW officials were not open about the potential problem, and what was being done to prevent future incidents. But according to Williams, the CPW has been trying to improve their relations with local ranchers.


“We are all taking a look at it. Very few people were consulted the last time and CPW has learned a lot of lessons,” Williams said. “They are trying to be more transparent.”


According to the Coloradoan, CPW has been providing data of wolf depredations since Colorado’s North Park wolf pack was responsible for the death of a calf in December 2021 before the 10 new wolves were introduced a few months ago. After 10 grey wolves were brought to the state from Oregon and Washington last December, the first depredation incident occurred on April 5 after a calf was found dead in Grand County.


Now a total of three calves and four yearling cattle have been victims of wolf assaults, with six out of the seven animals dying as a result of these attacks. The latest incident occurred in Grand County when three yearling cows were killed on April 17 and another one on April 18.


Is Teller County at Risk?


Ever since wolves were reintroduced to the state, ranchers all across the state (including Teller County) have been concerned of what could happen to their livestock and their own dogs.  Many contend that even though Teller County has not experienced any surprise wild canine visits, it is just a matter of time before the wolves arrive.


According to data received from wolf reintroductions in other states, the canines can travel up to 150 miles from where they are released before they find their final stomping grounds. Teller County is within a 150-mile radius from where the wolves were released in Summit and Grand Counties. This makes the prospects of the wolves, including the ones responsible for the recent killings, entering the county soon a definite possibility.


According to the last Collared Gray Wolf Activity Map released by CPW on March 25, wolves have not yet traveled into Teller County or any of its neighboring counties. However, the wolves have traveled south of Interstate 70 in Eagle and Summit Counties which is further south than they had traveled before.


Williams conceded that the issue is on the radar of local government officials. At the same time, he notes that locally, depredations have not become a problem yet as the wolves have stayed in the northern and western parts of the state.


Williams said that even though headlines surrounding the wolf depredations have upset local residents and many want to blame CPW, taking it out on the local game wardens is not the answer. “Both of our local game wardens are wonderful people and some of the people in the counties where there are wolves have really started to get ugly with game wardens and deny access and stuff like that,” Williams said. “I just want to remind people in Teller County that while we are all emotional about the wolves, I would ask that they not take it out on our local CPW game wardens because they are just out there trying to protect wildlife and protect rights and everything else.”


According to critics of the CPW wolf relocation program, the main immediate solution missing is a firm decision on removing the problem wild canines who are responsible for the killings. A spokesperson from Governor Polis’s office told the Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins that “lethal control of wolves when there are only 12 known wolves in the state is premature.”


But ranchers have said that wildlife officials need to do something sooner rather than later before the two wolves causing the depredations breed and make matters much worse. CPW officials have said that they plan on adding range riders to the areas where the wolves have been found to help protect livestock.