COLORADO — WildEarth Guardians along with several other conservation groups wrote an alternative proposal regarding wolf reintroduction to the state of Colorado.
In February, Proposition 114 removed gray wolves from the endangered species list. It also required Colorado Parks and Wildlife to create a plan to reintroduce gray wolves to Colorado by the end of 2023.
The proposal is asking for a minimum of 150 packs to be introduced on public land over four consecutive years.
“We proposed 12 reintroduction sites all on the Western Slope, eight of the 12 are in wilderness areas,” said Lindsay Larris, Wildlife Program Director of WildEarth Guardians.
Erika Moore, Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center Assistant Director, said introducing wolves in different areas will help with their population.
“Giving wolves a couple of different places and starting points is going to help set them up with territories that they know that they can go,” said Moore. “It will help them also to spread out their genetics which will help that population’s viability in the long term.”
Wolf advocates say there are multiple benefits to bringing wolves into the state.
“Wolves help with that predator prey balance,” said Moore. “Here in Colorado, we do have a very large elk and deer population, more than our ecosystems can help to healthily sustain.”
But ranchers and cattle owners are concerned for their livestock getting attacked by wolves.
Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, CCA, voiced concerns to the state.
“We’ve filed public comment [verbally] and we’ve also submitted written documents to the process,” said Steve Wooten, of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “Following the outline that was given to us when the citizens of Colorado voted to introduce wolves.”
Wooten said wolves can impact cattle fertility and cause the animals to be stressed.
“There’s a certain percentage loss in fertility… and the number of females that get pregnant,” said Wooten. “When you add that stressor to the environment to them, there are some factors in there that we’re talking about – how do you compensate for a cow herd that has 95% of its cows getting bred each year, that they’re now getting 85% of their cows getting bred.”
Moore said those fears are understandable.
“I would say concerns are valid,” said Moore. “Our goal of what we do here is to help people better understand wolves, what they are and are not capable of and hopefully help people learn how to coexist with them. And what we can do to make everybody’s lives better, both wolf and human.”
On Friday morning the keystone update will be streamed online.