Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 15, 2023

Contact:

Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org

U.S. Agency Moves Forward on Reintroducing Wolves To Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released its final environmental impact statement and a draft Record of Decision for Colorado Parks and Wildlife to begin reintroducing endangered gray wolves.

The decision, if finalized, would allow the killing of wolves that prey on livestock, but it includes no requirement that livestock owners undertake nonlethal preventative measures.

“When the first wolf bolts out of a portable kennel into western Colorado’s cornucopia of elk and deer, it will start to right the wrong of federal wolf extermination a century ago,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “After clinking our glasses in a toast to the wolves in their new home, we’ll closely monitor wolf management to ensure the budding population is allowed to thrive without persecution.”

The final environmental statement has just one substantial change from the draft: It limits the killing of wolves in response to “unacceptable impacts” to wild ungulates such as deer and elk to tribal lands — whereas the draft EIS would have allowed such killings anywhere in the state.

In comments on the draft, the Center pointed out that failing to require livestock owners to undertake preventative measures incentivizes poor husbandry and opens the door to chronic conflicts and associated killings of wolves. Such preventative measures would include removing carcasses of non-wolf-killed livestock before wolves scavenge on the carrion in the midst of herds that may be sickly.

“The state wolf plan and this new federal authorization will probably need to be revised before too long to truly protect both wolves and livestock by mandating non-lethal prevention,” said Robinson.

Under a state law passed by initiative in 2020, wolf releases will begin this year.

Background on Colorado Wolves

In 1869 Colorado’s territorial legislature authorized a 50-cent bounty on wolf scalps. In 1905, in the first year of its existence, the Forest Service hired wolf trappers in Colorado in order to curry favor with ranchers. In 1915 Congress began appropriating funds for wolf extermination throughout the West. By the late-1920s, federal trappers and poisoners had eliminated all known wolf packs in Colorado; a Fish and Wildlife Service trapper killed the last, lone wolf in Conejos County in 1945.

After passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and amid discussion of wolf recovery in Colorado, in 1982 the Colorado Wildlife Commission opposed reintroduction.

After wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, periodically they migrated to northwestern Colorado. In 2004 a wolf was hit and killed by a vehicle on Interstate 70. In 2006 one was videotaped near the Wyoming border. In 2009 one was illegally poisoned. And in 2015 another was shot.

Since 2019 confirmed or probable wolf sightings including from dispersals from Wyoming have occurred each year in northwestern Colorado. Those include six black pups in Jackson County in 2021 — the first born in the state since the 1920s. But two radio-collared wolves later disappeared and in addition, last year, hunters in far-southern Wyoming were reported to have killed three black sub-adult female wolves. Currently, just two male wolves are known to be traveling together in northwestern Colorado.

In 2020, voters approved Proposition 114 to reintroduce wolves, and this year Colorado Parks and Wildlife finalized a wolf restoration and management plan.

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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