GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The voters have spoken to reintroduce gray wolves on the Western Slope by a hair. State Representative Matt Soper says, “Proposition 114 barely passed.” “It was about 51% to 49%,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife official Randy Hampton.
The plan is to reintroduce the apex predators in December of 2023, but they’re already here. Hampton says, “Last year or so we know that there were at one time six wolves in Northwest Colorado. Also, two animals, two wolves that are collared in the North Park area.”
Idaho just passed a bill allowing hunters to cut down their wolf population of about 1,500 by 90%, according to Representative Soper. “In Idaho the wolf population has grown out of control and that’s why they’re having to take extreme measures,” said Soper.
Now, the bill is serving as an example for a possible preemptive Coloradan solution to the Western Slope wolf worry. Mesa County Commissioner, Cody Davis, says, “We’re asking for a robust wolf management program because if you don’t have that management program in place at the beginning, the wolves will get away from us.”
The CPW currently has a game damage program for ranchers that lose their cattle to other apex predators that could be used for wolves, according to Hampton. “There will be some kind of a system that compensates livestock producers for wolf depredation,” said Hampton.
There’s a possible solution to wolves killing the livelihood of cattle ranchers, but there are concerns wolves will kill other prey animals thereby killing the funds hunters bring to the state as well as conservation efforts. “We could see an impact on our elk and deer populations. Which, we know here in Western Colorado, we have a vibrant hunting and fishing industry which could be essentially, dismantled and destroyed if wolves get out of hand,” said Davis.
CPW data shows in 2019 the state collected more than $125 million in hunting license fees that could be lost when wolves increase their numbers. “If they’re eating more of the game that hunters are wanting to hunt, that just means there’s less of an incentive for someone to buy those hunting permits,” said Soper.
There are still many questions and few answers to the wolf worry, but one answer is loud and clear. “Right now, unless there is a threat to your person, you cannot shoot a wolf in Colorado,” said Hampton.
Commissioner Davis says we have a population of over 800 moose on the Grand Mesa, but says moose populations were decimated in states north of Colorado that implemented wolves.
Hampton with the CPW says there will be a meeting with the Parks and Wildlife Commission discussing more details pertaining to the Gray Wolf Reintroduction Plan on May 5-6.
For more information on how you can stay informed and active about the gray wolf reintroduction process, click here.