Colorado Officials Hear Options on Gray Wolf Restoration | Wyoming News
By JAMES ANDERSON, Associated Press
DENVER (AP) – As gray wolves come under pressure from federal deregistration and increased hunting in some Rocky Mountain states, Colorado wildlife officials on Thursday heard a number of detailed options for setting implementing a voter-approved reintroduction of the species west of the Continental Divide.
Highlights of the ongoing work of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Task Force come as advocacy groups fight to restore federal protections for wolves and hunting restrictions in some states, including l ‘Idaho and Montana, have been relaxed, leading to an increase in the number of wolves killed and outraging conservationists. .
Colorado voters last year narrowly approved a ballot initiative to reintroduce wolves to sparsely populated West Slope public lands by 2023. The predatory species has been hunted to extinction in Colorado in the 1940s. Advocates say the reintroduction will restore a swathe of wolf habitat that once stretched from Canada to Mexico.
At a meeting in the southeastern town of Lamar, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioners heard key points about reintroduction options being explored by a technical working group made up of officials from various federal agencies. , wolf experts from Oregon and Montana, as well as local governments and academic organizations.
Among the group’s findings:
–Flexibility in supply, with a preference for wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. A handful of gray wolves have appeared in northern Colorado in recent years, likely wandering south from packs in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
–Equip released wolves in Colorado with GPS collars to monitor the formation and distribution of individual wolf packs and assess progress towards a self-sustaining population.
–Start releases in winter, close to breeding season.
– Careful selection of release sites with adequate prey, low livestock populations and away from population centers and roads. Eric Odell, a task force member and head of the species conservation program at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the agency should consider reintroduction away from Colorado borders and tribal lands to maintain management of wolves that may roam tens or even hundreds of kilometers. Restricting the number of release sites – even a single one – could promote reproduction and pack formation.
–A moderate rate of reintroduction of, perhaps, 10 to 15 wolves per year for two to three years, with a break to monitor progress.
– Over time, wolves will spread on their own, with a possibility that most of Colorado would see wolves within a decade.
Commissioners also heard key findings from an extensive public engagement process led by the non-profit Keystone Policy Center, which hosts numerous meetings and collects feedback online.
Where to take the wolves is key for many respondents. According to Keystone, some participants suggested the western part of Rocky Mountain National Park, although the park is significantly smaller than Yellowstone, where wolves were introduced in the 1990s.
About 2,000 wolves are found in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State, and northern California. A remaining population in the western Great Lakes region has since expanded to approximately 4,400 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. A small population of Mexican gray wolves remains protected in the southwest.
The Trump administration ended endangered species law protections for gray wolves in most of the United States last year, giving states and tribes responsibility for monitoring predators. Colorado gray wolves are listed as an endangered species by the state and cannot be killed for any reason other than self-defense.
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