How Colorado plans to bring the coyotes back on the Western Slope by the 2023 deadline

Chase Woodruff

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado may be less than a year away from the state’s first relocation of gray wolves to parts of the Western Slope, as required by a voter-passed ballot initiative in 2020.

a a plan released by Colorado Parks and Wildlife last month calls for the reintroduction of 10 to 15 wolves annually over the next three to five years, with an initial goal of settling at least 50 animals within the state.

“This draft plan represents the department’s best effort to develop a blueprint and rationale approach to implementing Proposition 114,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission chair Carrie Bisnet Hauser said at the committee’s December meeting. “The goal was to develop a plan that was supported by the majority of the public and that was a reasonable compromise that was workable and had room to evolve over time.”

Voters narrowly approved Proposition 114, a citizen-initiated measure with support from wildlife conservation groups, by a margin of 51% to 49% in November 2020. It directed the CPW to develop a plan and take steps to reintroduce gray wolves west of the Continental Divide by the end of 2023. .

Under the state’s 293-page draft plan, CPW staff will work with counterpart agencies in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to capture wolves from existing wild populations in those states, and release them on state-owned and private land at least 60 miles from neighboring state or tribal boundaries.

Based on criteria for habitat suitability and conflict risk, the plan identifies a northern area centered in Glenwood Canyon and a southern area centered in Gunnison County as the best sites for wintering coyotes. The first releases will occur in the northern region in the winter of 2023-24, and wolves will be tracked via GPS collars to help wildlife managers gather data on survival and dispersal.

Although the new law includes a provision obligating the state to compensate agricultural producers for any losses in livestock caused by wolves, Ranchers on the western slope and industrial groups such as Colorado Cattlemen Association They remained wary of the suggestion.

The state’s draft plan includes detailed procedures for compensating ranchers for livestock losses of up to $8,000 per animal. Commission vice president Dallas May, a Lamar farmer, called the plan “a great start” but told state employees the $8,000 cap was “not enough.”

“A lot of horse and cattle seed is much more valuable than that,” May said. “A well-trained young ranch horse – starting at $15,000. Most people have $15,000 worth of pastures for horses that are essential to running their business.”

“A great achievement in preserving the environment”

Gray wolves are native to Colorado and other Rocky Mountain states, but were hunted to near extinction by the mid-20th century. With the support of conservation groups, reintroduction efforts such as the one in Yellowstone National Park Starting in 1995 I have allowed residents to recover in the northern Rocky Mountains. Studies have linked wolf reintroduction to a variety of positive impacts on affected ecosystems, such as healthy elk herds and rebound riparian habitats It has been damaged by overgrazing.

Sightings of wolves that migrated from other states have been reported periodically in Colorado, and it was the first pair of wolves to breed in the state in 70 years. has been confirmed in Jackson County in 2021.

The CPW plan “represents another step toward an important achievement in preserving the prairies and the people of Colorado,” Dillon Hanson Ahumada, South Rocky field representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, said in a statement.

“The gray wolf is an important native species to our state, and a vital part of the wildlife heritage we all share as the Coloradons,” said Hanson Ahumada. “We will work to make sure that the final plan commits Colorado to a full recovery for the Coyotes now and for future generations of Coloradoans.”

However, some environmentalists object to the plan’s approach to cattle and wolf conflicts. Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the draft plan “paves the way for shooting too many wolves.” Under the plan, many government protections for wolves will expire once the animal population reaches 200, likely Which leads to a legitimate wolf huntas have states like Montana and Wyoming.

“This disappointing proposal does not require ranchers to take responsibility for conflict prevention and would result in government agents regularly shooting Colorado coyotes from helicopters,” Robinson said in a statement. “The commissioners should reject this draft and rewrite the plan on the basis of science.”

CPW staff will hold five public hearings across the state in January and February to receive public comment on the draft plan, with a final set of reviews and possible approval of the plan scheduled for April and May. Members of the public can too Send comments Through an online form until February 22.

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