For Immediate Release, February 22, 2023
Lindsay Larris, WildEarth Guardians, (720) 334-7636, firstname.lastname@example.org
Coloradans Strongly Support Wolf Restoration at Denver Meeting
Comments Highlight Public Desire to Protect Wolves
DENVER— Scores of Coloradans today voiced their support for science-based, ecologically friendly wolf restoration throughout Colorado during a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission hearing on a draft wolf plan.
Commenters opposed any future trophy hunts as well as the killing of wolves that prey on livestock without requirements that ranchers first use non-lethal measures to avoid conflict.
In 2020 Colorado voters approved Proposition 114, which requires that gray wolves be reintroduced to the state by the end of 2023. The commission must implement a science-based plan to restore a “self-sustaining” population of wolves with the intent to “help restore a critical balance in nature.”
The law also designates wolves as a “non-game” species, which prohibits recreational trophy hunting and trapping. An August 2022 poll showed that most Colorado voters, including majorities of Republicans and people on the Western Slope, don’t want wolves trophy hunted or trapped. Despite this, the commission included a potential wolf trophy hunt in the draft wolf plan.
“Opponents of Proposition 114 are practically salivating over this draft plan, and it’s not because they belatedly appreciate that wolves will restore a balance in nature,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife is hoodwinking the public by not revealing that endangered wolves will be gunned down on a regular basis so ranchers won’t have to lift a finger to prevent conflicts. Coloradans voted for science-based approaches to wolf restoration, not shooting wolves from helicopters.”
“The commissioners’ support to remove any mention of a recreational wolf hunt in a revised plan positions Colorado to truly become an exemplar for how a state can reintroduce and manage wolves,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “The removal of language hinting at a potential future trophy hunt honors the intent of the voters of Colorado were very clear: the gray wolf is to be restored to Colorado, not hunted and trapped as a repeat of a dark history.”
Even before potential trophy hunting, the plan would likely result in a high rate of government killings of wolves because it would not require livestock owners to take any non-lethal measures to prevent wolf predation on their stock. The most important such measure would be removal or destruction of the carcasses of non-wolf-killed livestock to prevent wolves from scavenging in the vicinity of nearby livestock that are vulnerable to predation.
“Colorado’s Wildlife Commission has been entrusted by the voters with correcting a catastrophic historical error — the deliberate eradication of the majestic gray wolf from the state,” said Michael Saul, Colorado director for Western Watersheds Project. “We appreciate the work to date in bringing back the wolf to Colorado, but the law demands, and the voters deserve, more than the current draft plan offers — a healthy population of stable, reproducing wolf packs distributed throughout multiple suitable habitats, free from the human-caused mortality that wiped them out the first time.”
“The current version of the plan is more like science fiction than science-based,” said Michelle Lute, Ph.D., the wolf conservation and carnivore conservation director for Project Coyote. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to pretend that lethal control is a legitimate tool but modern, best available science tells us otherwise. Allowing the use of ineffective lethal tools misinforms the public, wastes public resources and increases the risks to wolves and livestock.”
“Proposition 114 directs that wolf management is to be guided by best available science, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s current draft plan focuses on lethal control and opens the door to trophy hunting — neither are supported by ethics or best available science,” said Delia Malone, wildlife chair for the Colorado Sierra Club. “Non-lethal means of preventing conflict between livestock and wolves is proven effective, while lethal control is both ineffective at preventing conflict and disrupts wolf family social structure, disabling a pack’s ability to survive and perform their role in restoring a critical natural balance.”
Commissioners are expected to vote on a final wolf plan at their meeting in Glenwood Springs on May 3 and 4. Because wolves are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, there is a concurrent process being led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to write a federal rule guiding wolf management in Colorado. The federal process is expected to finish in time for wolf releases in December 2023.
The commission has been taking public comments on the agency’s draft wolf plan since December and is now expected to work with staff to take public input into consideration as a final plan is written.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.