Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 23, 2022


Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Federal Safeguards Urged For Colorado Wolves in 2023 Reintroduction

State Management Plan Must Use Best Available Science, Letter Says

DENVER— The Center for Biological Diversity has urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to limit the killing of wolves that will be reintroduced in Colorado in 2023. The federal protections — requested in a Center letter sent this week — would override a Colorado Parks and Wildlife plan, which could allow for the widespread killing of wolves.

In 2020 Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative directing the state to reintroduce wolves. The state’s wolf management plan is still being drafted, but an advisory group has recommended that the plan authorize livestock owners and others to kill any wolf that has killed even a single head of livestock. Wolves that ranchers claim to have observed attacking livestock could be killed with no restrictions.

“Proper enforcement of the Endangered Species Act should prevent Colorado Parks and Wildlife from recklessly killing wolves,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal guardrails are necessary to make sure the state officials who tried to defeat reintroduction at the ballot box can’t kill an unlimited number of wolves on behalf of the livestock industry.”

The Center’s letter was submitted before Monday night’s deadline for comments on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s development of an Endangered Species Act wolf management permit and associated draft environmental impact statement.

Wolves should be given priority over livestock on national forests and other public lands, the Center told the Service. The Center also urged the Service to require ranchers to prevent wolves from scavenging on carcasses by requiring prompt removal of dead animals. Any wolf allowed to scavenge would be immune from being killed for subsequent killing of livestock.

The Center’s letter provides scientific support to suggest that the Service should set a wolf population goal of at least 750 animals, along with requiring geographic connectivity to other wolf populations, to ensure the long-term genetic health of Colorado’s wolves. The recommendations are in contrast to the state-appointed advisory group, which suggested that wolves should be considered recovered when 200 roam the state, even if they’re isolated from wolves elsewhere.

The Center’s letter recommends tracking benefits to ecosystems and wildlife following the reintroduction of wolves, including to streamside vegetation, pronghorn, swift fox, black-footed ferret and Canada lynx populations.

In Yellowstone National Park, wolves changed the behavior of elk, resulting in the regrowth of riparian habitats. In a variety of states, wolves limit coyote numbers, which benefits pronghorns, swift foxes and black-footed ferrets that coyotes prey on. That also benefits Canada lynx with which coyotes compete for snowshoe hares.

The Center argued that the killing of wolves should not be allowed to slow progress toward a state population of 750 wolves or inhibit improvements to riparian habitats overgrazed by elk and benefits for any of those four coyote-affected species.

“Colorado’s wolf recovery should build on lessons from wolf reintroductions elsewhere and avoid needless conflict and brutality,” said Robinson. “That means setting basic requirements on livestock owners to avoid baiting wolves with carrion and having the wolves pay the ultimate price. The Service should also prohibit the killing of wolves for predation on livestock on public lands. Those lands should be dedicated first and foremost to imperiled wildlife and ecosystem health, and not to private profit.”

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.

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