Wolf Compromise in the Works; Stage Set for Problem Canines to Get Hunted and Killed

Rick Langenberg

Colorado’s big fight over the reintroduction of wolves into the state, pitting ranchers against wildlife officials, may be reaching a mini-compromise.

Or at least both sides are agreeing to lay down the axe.

This battle hasn’t impacted Teller County yet, but agriculture supporters and proponents of the wolf reintroduction plan, are closely monitoring the situation. Plus, the wide distance where wolves can travel to in Colorado may impact Teller County in the future.

Although the actual implementation details still need to get finalized, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission recently decided by a close 6-4 vote, to allow for permits, including the lethal taking of chronically depredating wolves.  In other words, this action could open the door for problem wolves to be hunted and killed, but under stringent conditions, such as time limits on these permits and a cap on how many wolves can get hunted.

Currently, property owners can’t harm gray wolves, even if the threaten their cattle or working dogs due to their protection status under the Endangered Species Act.

The recent Wildlife Commission vote was applauded by ranchers in Grand County and other areas, where several wolves, part of a group of wild canines originally captured in Oregon and transported in Colorado under a relatively new wildlife program, are reportedly responsible for a slew of livestock-related deaths and carnage. In addition, it is believed that a pair of wolves, who have done much of the livestock killing, have set up a den to house new pups.

This has created more angst among ranchers and agriculture supporters, who fear this could lead to a new generation of wolves’ intent on killing livestock and guard dogs.

But following the commission decision, more questions than answers now persist, such as who should do the actual hunting and killing of problem wolves.

The decision also was heavily questioned by ardent wolf proponents, such as Darlene Kobobel of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide. “We are far from having a stable wolf population and without any incentives to use these tools, that sets the wolves up for failure,” she stated at the recent hearing, according to an article in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette. Kobobel objects to the use of artificial light and thermal imaging at night, in an effort to target problem wolves.  “Cattle have no defenses because it has been bred out of them. Therefore, producers need to work harder.”

Wolf advocates stress that under the program started by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, originally prompted by a successful state ballot issue approved by Colorado citizens, compensation for lost cattle is quite generous.  They have advocated that the wolf preservation effort is a vital part of having a healthy ecosystem.

But these claims have been blasted by state representatives in certain parts of Colorado.

Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams, who serves as a member of the Colorado Wildlife Council, has taken a middle of the road stance regarding the wolf fight. In a previous interview, Williams said he is mostly worried about the strong emotion this issue has created with a love-hate relationship developing regarding the re-introduced wolves. As a result, he doesn’t want to see local game wardens become the target of this controversy.

To date, no wolves, stemming from the wild canine reintroduction program, have entered Teller. Some property owners, though, fear that it could be a matter of time before certain gray wolves make it into Teller County.