(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Releasing wolves into the wild is one step closer, after months of drafting the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan.
The first public hearing took place on Thursday, Jan. 19, in Colorado Springs, where people from across Colorado showed up to give feedback on Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) plan.
If you want to give input on this plan, click here to submit a comment.
CPW’s reintroduction plan calls for transferring 30 to 50 gray wolves from northern Rockies states to Colorado’s Western Slope, beginning at the end of this year.
CPW plans to capture 10-15 wild gray wolves every fall and winter from several different packs before relocating them on private and state land on the Western Slope. They will be released at least 60 miles from the borders of surrounding states to ensure wolves don’t migrate out of Colorado.
One of the biggest concerns comes from farmers and ranchers, who say they’re worried about conflicts between wolves and livestock.
“My family relies on wild harvest protein to eat. My freezer is full of elk and deer and turkey. Not that it’s anything wrong with the wolf. They’re just doing what they need to do to survive but we will be the ones pushed out of those areas,” said Jenny Burbey.
The plan proposes up to $8,000 for any livestock or animal killed by a wolf.
“And, it’s a scary prospect for a sheep rancher. Because we don’t just lose one sheep at a time, we lose hundreds,” said Renee Deal.
Under the plan, the state has the right to kill wolves that develop a habit of preying on livestock or damaging game populations. CPW will monitor the packs using GPS collars, trail cameras, and aerial surveys. They will closely monitor wolf prey populations, along with impacts on elk, deer, and moose populations.
“I would like to see programs set up where ranchers that may be affected, must have conflict management practices as the first line of defense. There should be no lethal management until non-lethal methods have been tried,” said Darlene Kobobel.
Several people at the public hearing expressed problems with the final plan phases, which say wolves could become fair game for hunting if populations rebound to 200.
“A minimum population of 200 wolves is honestly insulting at best. And the educated public who voted to restore wolves did not do so to see them later reclassified as a game species, said Kelly Murphy.
The plan says, when wildlife biologists count 150 wolves for two successive years or 200 wolves at any time, the animals will be removed from state endangered or threatened protection and be listed as non-game wildlife.