As mountain lion sightings in the region increase, there has been talk about allowing more hunting to thin their numbers. Your take?
To say I’m an avid user of open space is like saying that Boulder leans left. I’m running, climbing or cycling in the hills above Boulder at least five days a week, frequently every day of the week. I’ve been doing it for more than a quarter of a century, on every day of the year.
I’ve seen deer that are so used to humans that I’ve run within six feet of them, almost close enough to pat them on the back. On Green Mountain, in the darkness of a very early morning, I once followed a bear up the Amphitheater Trail until it eventually detoured off the trail.
In all that time, I’ve still never seen a mountain lion. How cool would it be to see a lion? A lion! People travel to Africa to see lions, yet we have them right here. One of the greatest benefits of living where we do is being close to so much wildlife.
Mountain lions and bears are large, powerful, and very dangerous if they attack, but they very rarely attack humans. There have been three Colorado fatalities from mountain lions in more than 100 years of record keeping. Lions seem to instinctively know that humans aren’t prey.
We already have to hunt elk and deer to help control their populations, mainly because we’ve driven away their predators. Hunting lions would just exacerbate the problem and we’d then have to kill more deer. Killing will just lead to more killing.
While hunters are generally quite safe, with fewer than 1,000 shooting accidents per year in the U.S. and fewer than 75 deaths, those 75 deaths per year are seven times the number of U.S. deaths by mountain lions in the last 50 years combined. It is 350 times more likely that someone will be killed by a hunting accident than a cougar.
Possibly the overall risk to humans would increase if we had hunters in our open space. Hunting lions would be a mistake.
Bill Wright, email@example.com
I admit I know little about hunting. I do know that we humans chose to settle in mountain lion territory and not the other way around, though, so I’m inclined to err on the side of minimal human intervention in mountain lion populations, if possible.
One of the only predators that can naturally thin the mountain lion population is the wolf, which humans eradicated from Colorado in the 1940s. When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, the overall health of the ecosystem improved because wolves go after the weaker, sicklier animals.
Human hunters tend to look for the healthier specimens, meaning that while recreational hunting may help with overpopulation, it doesn’t necessarily improve the health of the population. This fall, there will be a statewide ballot initiative to reintroduce gray wolves into Colorado by 2023. It will be the first time in the United States that voters will be able to decide on wolf reintroduction.
I don’t know how effective wolf reintroduction will be at stemming mountain lion excursions into Front Range communities, but making efforts to restore the natural predator-prey relationships that existed long before we came to this land feels right and just. Simply issuing more mountain lion hunting licenses seems unlikely to stem the problem of mountain lions coming into populated areas.
My understanding is that some mountain lions develop the habit of coming into populated areas because they’ve learned that they can find food more easily in those areas, but presumably we’re not talking about allowing mountain lion hunting within city limits, so how do we know that the hunters will be killing the problem lions?
Hunting is a blunt instrument for dealing with a minor problem. There have been just 27 fatal mountain lion attacks on humans in the entire United States in the last 100 years. We have bigger problems to deal with right now.
Jane Hummer, firstname.lastname@example.org
I have had only one encounter with a mountain lion in my life. It was here in Boulder on Mount Sanitas. One day a week, usually on Tuesdays, I hike Sanitas Trail around 5 a.m. It is a great workout, and I do it year round.
One July morning a few years back, I arrived at the trail head and started my trek. It was still dark and my headlamp was blazing the way. As I approached the saddle in the west ridge just before the first false summit, I saw them.
Two gigantic eyes, smack in the middle of the trail, staring back at me about 20 feet away. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at, but then, with the help of my head lamp, I could make out the lion’s face, the ridge of his back, and its tail. I froze, then cursed, and then remembered back to my mountain lion training; which fully consisted of one four-minute song from Boulder’s own Jeff and Paige. Thanks Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks for that training!
All right, so after freezing and cursing, I took off my pack and made myself look big. To my surprise, the mountain lion didn’t move. It just stood there staring at me.
Honestly, I was surprised because I thought that as soon as this big guy caught wind of me, off, he would go. But no! We were locked in a staring contest. “Damn it!” I thought. I really wanted to get a workout in and this dude is standing in my way. What to do next?
Since my presence alone wasn’t enough to budge this lion, I had to do something else. Yelling and harassing him was next move. I start yelling and banging my hands together. “Yes! that worked! He moved!” I thought. But, my joy was short lived because he had just moved onto the ridge about 10 feet above me. Now he had the high ground. I was doubly screwed.
After about five minutes of playing this game, another hiker (a tourist) came up behind me. What’s going on?” he asked. “There is a mountain lion right above the trail. Can’t you see it?” I said.
“No” said the tourist (he was not wearing a headlamp and it was still dark). “Is it safe to go?” he said. “I think,” I said, “You go first.”
So, off we went, me and the tourist, directly under the mountain lion. The tourist placed strategically between me and the lion and the mountain lion’s big, glowing eyes staring down at us. Having made the trek often and in better shape, as soon as I cleared to a safe area, I was gone. I never heard a scream, so I assume the tourist returned unscathed.
My take: Lion populations fluctuate with the availability of prey. Let them be; it’s their habitat. As for me, I am always looking for early morning hiking partners, preferably slightly slower than me.
My email is below, feel free to reach out to me if you are up for it.
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LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A Lakewood woman said the laws need to be changed after her condominium has been trapping and killing squirrels.
“I don’t think this is a humane way to deal with this at all,” Klaudia Sekulska said.
The traps are placed on the roof outside her window.
She said someone in the building complained the squirrels were getting into the attic, and a local pest control company was called.
“There are different ways to go about it. You don’t have to let an animal freeze to death overnight and then put it in a black garbage bag. That’s not dignified for anyone,” she said.
Colorado law allows pest control companies to operate under the same rules as homeowners. It’s legal to trap and, in some cases, poison squirrels that are damaging property.
Sekulska said the laws should change.
“It’s a permit to kill, and that’s what’s happening here. We’re proud of our animals and our wildlife, and it was National Squirrel Day yesterday,” Sekulska said.
Sekulska brought her concerns to animal control, property managers and her HOA.
She said they haven’t done enough to patch the holes in the roof or bring in proper trash bins before resorting to killing the animals.
Denver7 reached out to the HOA for comment but did not hear back.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends removing pet food and trash that may be attracting squirrels, create barriers, and use ammonia as a deterrent.
If you believe any animal is being abused or is being treated inhumanely, you can file a complaint with Colorado Parks and Wildlife or your local animal control.
Eyewitness account plus scavenged elk carcass indicates likely presence of multiple wolves in northwest Colorado
MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say an eyewitness report of six large canids traveling together in the far northwest corner of the state last October, in conjunction with last week’s discovery of a thoroughly scavenged elk carcass near Irish Canyon – a few miles from the location of the sighting – strongly suggests a pack of gray wolves may now be residing in Colorado.
“The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together,” said CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. “In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report.”
After learning about the scavenged elk carcass, CPW initiated an investigation which is still ongoing. At the site, the officers observed several large canid tracks from multiple animals surrounding the carcass. According to CPW wildlife managers, the tracks are consistent with those made by wolves. In addition, the condition of the carcass is consistent with known wolf predation. (Photos below)
“The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years,” said Romatzke. “In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.
Romatzke says from the evidence, there is only one logical conclusion CPW officials can make.
“It is inevitable, based on known wolf behavior, that they would travel here from states where their populations are well-established,” he said. “We have no doubt that they are here, and the most recent sighting of what appears to be wolves traveling together in what can be best described as a pack is further evidence of the presence of wolves in Colorado.”
Romatzke adds CPW will continue to operate under the agency’s current management direction.
“We will not take direct action and we want to remind the public that wolves are federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As wolves move into the state on their own, we will work with our federal partners to manage the species,” he said.
The public is urged to contact CPW immediately if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity. The Wolf Sighting Form can be found on the CPW website.
With wolf pack supporters planning on Tuesday to submit more than 208,000 signatures supporting a November 2020 ballot measure calling for the reintroduction of wolves to Colorado, voters could soon hear a pitched howling over wolves for most of next year.
“This is our last opportunity to do it right and to restore the balance,” said Rob Edward, whose Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund has been collecting signatures since June for a 2020 ballot measure — now called Initiative 107 — that directs the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to craft a plan to restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado by the end of 2023.
The group needs about 124,000 valid signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. Their deadline to collect them is Friday.
As the group transitions from harvesting signatures to swaying voters, opponents of wolf reintroduction are girding for battle. And it’s a new type of fight for opponents of wolf reintroduction, who in other states across the West and Great Lakes region have lobbied wildlife commissioners — not voters — to oppose reintroduction. The Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition is strategizing a first-ever public campaign, seeking to educate voters on potential negative impacts of introducing the wolf to the state.
“There are a lot of people who don’t want wolves brought into Colorado. We just can’t sustain another predator in this state,” said Denny Behrens, co-chair of the Stop the Wolf Coalition.
The coalition has gathered resolutions from 10 counties opposing reintroduction of wolves in the state. It has found high-profile supporters like Greg Walcher, the former head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
In a statement announcing his support for the coalition and its fight against Initiative 107, Walcher said seeded wolves in Colorado could “decimate other important wildlife, and their impact on rural areas could be devastating.”
Colorado is the last battleground for restoring wolf populations after more than 40 years of federal and state efforts to introduce wolves in the Southwest, Northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions.
In Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona and around the Great Lakes, wolf reintroduction was directed by wildlife officials following the federal Endangered Species Act that has protected gray wolves since 1983. A ballot measure in Colorado — the missing link connecting wolf populations between Mexico and Canada — would mark the first time that voters, not federal laws, directed state wildlife officials to restore wolves.
“Conservationists and biologists have been working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and different agencies for years, trying to convince them to do this in Colorado, and we keep running up against a brick wall,” said Edward of the direct-to-voters appeal for wolves.
There are about 5,500 wolves spread across nine U.S. states right now, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Department of the Interior in March proposed removing the gray wolf from protection, citing its growing population.
The proposal has drawn the ire of wolf advocates who fear delisting could lead to more wolf hunting and trapping in some areas. Advocates submitted more than a million comments opposing the suggested removal of endangered species protection for wolves.
Opponents don’t care about wandering wolves. They do not like the wolf advocates’ plan to introduce at least 20 to 30 predators to Colorado, which could grow to a population of 250 or more wolves over the course of a decade. Behrens said the idea that wolves would remain on the West Slope “is pretty absurd.”
“They will travel great distances. You will have wolves in Woodland Park and Estes Park. You are going to have wolves all over the place in a matter of years,” he said. “Why would you take a wolf from Canada where it roams free and bring it down to Colorado and turn it loose with almost 6 million people and think there’s not going to be any conflict? There will be conflict from day one, and it’s not fair to the wolf to do that.”
Edward, with the wolf fund, points to growing wolf populations in places like Yellowstone National Park, where millions of annual visitors have not had conflicts with wolves since reintroduction there in the 1990s.
“This is just not an issue. Western Colorado is 70% public land, so it’s not going to be developed and full of people,” Edward said.
Opponents of the wolf reintroduction plan say the flow of out-of-state money into the wolf reintroduction effort shows “this is not a Colorado campaign,” Behrens said.
“Less than 1% of the money they’ve raised has come from Coloradans. That’s pretty telling,” Behrens said.
Edward said since most of western Colorado is federal land, it’s not surprising that people from all over the country support efforts to restore wolf populations on public lands.
“It is perfectly appropriate for people from across the country to donate to this campaign,” said Edward, who served on a wolf advisory group in 2005 that ultimately recommended that the state’s wildlife commission oppose reintroducing wolves.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has not voiced support or opposition to the ballot proposal, but in 2016 the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted a resolution affirming the wolf advisory group’s recommendation opposing the intentional release of any wolves in Colorado.
A fiscal note from Colorado Parks and Wildlife — obtained via an open records request by the Stop the Wolf Coalition — shows that after planning costs, implementation of the wolf reintroduction plan would cost $4.1 million, including new wildlife biologists and payments to ranchers who lose livestock to wolves. The cost for the first eight years of the reintroduction effort, which CPW estimated would involve 45 released wolves over a five-year span, would be $5.7 million.
With what could be the country’s final battle over wolves now shifting toward Colorado voters, both sides say they have the support to win.
“As far back as 1993 and 1994, we have polling showing that people on the Western Slope support recovery by a majority margin,” Edward said.
Once “a full-blown education campaign” reaches voters, Behrens said, “we will see a huge input of funding from Coloradans who don’t want this.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, biologist Mike Phillips presented “Wildness Restored: The Wolf’s Return to Colorado” at the University of Colorado Denver, the latest lecture in the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He comes to Colorado at a pivotal moment — as state residents consider a proposed 2020 ballot measure to initiate a wolf restoration plan.
Phillips is currently a Montana State Senator and Director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund. A biologist who previously worked on both the Red Wolf Recovery Program and the Wolf Restoration project at Yellowstone National Park, Phillips has conducted extensive wildlife research, though he specializes in large carnivores. Besides many articles in both peer-reviewed journals and popular magazines, Phillips is the author of “The Wolves of Yellowstone.” In other words, he is a well-recognized wolf expert.
As such, Phillips has to contend with our country’s troubled history with wolves. Europeans settlers virtually eradicated wolves, first through independent hunting and trapping, and later through government-sanctioned wolf extirpation programs (involving mass poisoning, among other inhumane killing methods) that left the species almost extinct. Why? “Manifest destiny,” Phillips explains, “which demanded a zealous embrace of the determination to tame the land and its wild inhabitants.”
But the large-scale destruction of wild animals, including bison, grizzlies, wolves, and elk, eventually prompted a call to action. “The entire science of wildlife management grew out of a need for things to shoot because the great game herds had been destroyed,” Phillips said. Once the U.S. realized it needed to reverse the trend toward species extinction, it passed the Endangered Species Act, which protected threatened and endangered plants and animals and their habitats. This ushered in a new era of conservation — and the wolf once again became a central metaphor for how we view wildness.
The real wolf vs. the mythic wolf
In addition to history, Phillips has to contend with popular culture, which has largely depicted the wolf as a vicious predator. In this regard, the United States is not alone. For centuries, and across continents, the wolf has been at the center of stories and fables, serving as a convenient symbol. And many wolf myths are aimed at children, which prompted the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project (RMWP) to produce a video titled “Meet the Real Wolf” (see above).
Phillips is forced to discuss the wolf in this context, acknowledging the mythic wolf while providing information about the real wolf: “The real wolf has been studied exhaustively over many decades. The real wolf is one of the most studied large mammals in the world. The real wolf is not even a shadow of the mythical wolf — it’s the mythical wolf that gets in the way of restoration,” Phillips said.
It’s important to change the narrative about the real wolf, especially in regards to social structure and survival. For wolves, family is of paramount importance, as explained in the RMWP video. Another misconception is that wolves are supreme killers, which is incorrect: “The real wolf — oh, my heavens. Life is a daily struggle. Starvation is a common cause of death. Puppies suffer the most of all. Most efforts to hunt end up with gray wolves coming up empty-pawed,” Phillips said.
Initiative 107: restoration of gray wolves
Currently, the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF) is collecting signatures for a proposed 2020 ballot measure that would restore the gray wolf to Colorado. Rob Edward, president of RMWAF, summarized the petition: “Initiative 107 directs the Colorado Department of Wildlife & Parks to initiate a science-based wolf restoration plan, to include public input into the process, and to ultimately begin reintroducing wolves to designated lands west of the Continental Divide in Colorado no later than 2023.”
The final written version of Initiative 107 is available at the Colorado Secretary of State website. The measure does not establish its own plan for wolf reintroduction but rather asks the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to “Develop a plan to restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado, using the best scientific data available.”
That is one of the strengths of the initiative, according to Phillips. “Initiative 107 does not aim to be a strong statement of wildlife management. 107 acknowledges the expertise of Colorado state and of wildlife biologists; it acknowledges the expertise of the state assembly. It is specifically written to take advantage of that expertise and those authorities,” he said.
Edward and the RMWAF team are in the process of collecting the required number of signatures for Initiative 107 to appear on the 2020 ballot (approximately 124,500 by Dec. 13, 2019). He hopes to gather at least 200,000 signatures. That may be the hardest part in the campaign to reintroduce wolves to Colorado, particularly since the state requires signatures to be collected in person. If Initiative 107 gets on the ballot, Edward said he is confident Colorado voters will approve the measure: “We have over two decades of polling data showing support for wolf restoration standing at over 70% statewide and 65% on the Western Slope.”
Colorado is critical link in wolf range
According to Phillips, “Western Colorado represents the last great wolf restoration campaign.” This is because of Colorado’s geographic location —in between two wild wolf habitats. To Colorado’s north, wolf populations inhabit the northern Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest. To Colorado’s south, wolves inhabit the Southwest.
Renowned wolf expert L. David Mech, PhD, biologist and senior research scientist for the U.S. Department of the Interior, has been studying wolves since 1958. He writes: “Re-establishing wolves in western Colorado could connect the entire North American wolf population from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan through Canada and Alaska, down the Rocky Mountains into Mexico. It would be difficult to overestimate the biological and conservation value of this achievement.”
The state of Wyoming, however, poses a threat to a continuous Rocky Mountain wolf habitat since it delisted wolves from the Endangered Species list on April 25, 2017. Wolf management is now in the hands of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which defined wolves as predatory animals in a large majority of the state. Wyoming’s policy will negatively influence wolf movement. “But with a population in Colorado, at least there will be animals that can move both from the south to the north and from the north to the south. With more animals involved, the prospect of connectivity improves,” Phillips said.
And connectivity is important because wolves, like other large predators, help maintain healthy ecosystems. This is one of the important arguments for wolf reintroduction to the state. In a 2001 article titled “The Importance of Large Carnivores to Healthy Ecosystems,” Phillips and his co-authors write, “The impacts of carnivores thus extends past the objects of their predation. Because herbivores eat seeds and plants, predation on that group influences the structure of the plant community. The plant community, in turn, influences distribution, abundance, and competitive interaction within groups of birds, mammals, and insects.”
When asked to put this concept into everyday language, Phillips said: “Let’s assume that life is a most powerful force in the universe. If that’s true, then death has to be equally important … Life matters and death matters. Prey matters and predators matter … Gray wolves just happen to be good at moving life in the direction of adaptation—good at shaping life because they’re good at picking out those that are predisposed to die.” He explained what decades of wolf research has established: wolves prey on the weak.
Wolves could potentially mitigate chronic wasting disease
According to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) report from Dec. 2018, chronic wasting disease (CWD), a neurological illness similar to mad cow disease, is a growing concern: “As of July 2018, at least 31 of Colorado’s 54 deer herds (57%), 16 of 43 elk herds (37%), and two of nine moose herds (22%) are known to be infected with CWD.” And the incidence of CWD is growing quickly: the same report cites “greater than a tenfold increase in CWD prevalence” in some mule deer herds since the early 2000s.
People cannot easily detect animals with CWD. For example, CPR News recounted the experience of Eric Washburn, an experienced hunter who shot and killed a mule buck in Northern Colorado. The animal had a “thick coat and massive rack of antlers,” but mandatory testing found it had CWD. Washburn, who was forced to throw away “all of that beautiful meat” instead of using it to feed his family, learned an important lesson: “It just showed me you can’t tell by looks which deer are diseased and which are not.”
This incident turned Washburn into an unlikely ally for the pro-wolf-reintroduction movement, as a hunter working for the RMWAF in the hopes that wolves would help curb CWD. Biologist Gary Wolfe, a former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioner, points out that wolves target diseased animals. While there is no direct evidence that wolves mitigate CWD — only past studies related to wolves hunting animals with other diseases and a study on mountain lions preying on CWD-infected mule deer— Wolfe cites the inverse relationship between wolf population distribution and CWD-infected herds in the Mountain West. “That’s circumstantial evidence, but to me that’s a piece of circumstantial evidence that says that wolf predation can help slow the spread of the disease,” he states.
Opposition to wolves in Colorado
Other hunters, as well as ranchers and concerned citizens, strongly oppose Initiative 107. Some of them believe that wolves might increase the CWD problem by spreading it throughout prey herds. But there is no evidence that wolves increase the occurrence of CWD.
Stop the Wolf, an organization firmly against wolf reintroduction, has published a fact sheet titled “Wolves & Chronic Wasting Disease” that counters: “Wolves … act as an agent of dispersion and displace big game herds from their traditional habitat.” While their fact sheet does include accurate data concerning CWD from the Centers for Disease Control, the organization also disseminates misinformation and promotes fear. For example, another fact sheet titled “Wolves & Human Safety” claims “Now environmentalists teach children that it is safe to pet a wild wolf.”
There are more reasonable arguments that could be made against wolf reintroduction to Colorado, including the following: wolves will kill cattle and other livestock, wolves will kill prey animals like deer and elk, hunters could kill wolves, and wolves could harm humans. In response to many of these arguments, it’s fair to state that wolves are predators: Their presence or absence needs to be considered within the context of ecosystems and within the context of competing species, including humans.
Phillips addressed three of the counter-arguments in his lecture at CU Denver, anticipating the concerns of ranchers, hunters, and fearful citizens. Under Initiative 107, ranchers would be paid for any livestock killed by wolves. He also reviewed the current estimated elk and deer herd populations in Colorado and used figures from Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho to illustrate that wolves would make only a minor impact on Colorado’s hunting seasons. “Coexisting requires only a modicum of accommodation,” he concluded.
History of human–wolf interactions
The last point—that wolves might kill humans—might be the most important argument to address, given the complex history between humans and wolves in the United States (and elsewhere). European settlers and their descendants took a very common species and virtually exterminated it. Phillips said, “The gray wolf was destroyed relentlessly … killed for no great reason.”
Fear, of course, was at least part of the reason humans killed wolves. A report titled “The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Wolf Attacks on Humans,” published by Norway’s Ministry of the Environment in 2002, examined literature and first-hand accounts of wolf attacks on people from Scandinavia, continental Europe, Asia, and North America, including written documents from as far back as the fifteenth century. The report lists 18 authors and more than 90 contributors from more than 30 countries. Have there been wolf attacks on humans? Yes. But they dramatically decreased in the 20th century and the majority of attacks involved rabid wolves. The report concludes: “Unprovoked attacks by non-rabid wolves on people are very rare, and the vast majority of wolves do not regard people as being prey.”
Norman A. Bishop, who worked for the National Park Service for 36 years, addressed the issue of human safety closer to home. In an email, he wrote: “I served as a park ranger in Yellowstone from 1980 to 1997, and I led hundreds of people afield to view and study wolves between 1999 and 2005. I never saw anything that gave me a hint of concern about my safety or that of my companions.”
Bishop also provided data from Yellowstone. “From 1995 to 2018, Yellowstone hosted 101,070,722 visitors, none of whom was injured by a wolf.” For people who argue that it’s the backcountry campers who might be in greatest danger, Bishop cited 2.7 million tent campers in Yellowstone from 1995 to 2018—and “no camper was injured by a wolf.”
Direct democracy and wolf restoration
During a Q&A after his lecture, Phillips addressed concerns raised by two opponents to wolf restoration. Ultimately, he returned to the exact language that begins Initiative 107: “Be it enacted by the people of the state of Colorado.”
This echoes what he said in an earlier interview with CU Denver. “It’s left to Coloradans to decide, based on the nature of their heart.”
Garfield County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution opposing reintroducing wolves to Colorado. But the county’s resolution may not matter when voters head to the ballot box next year.
“I’m amazed that people want to do something like this, because I don’t think it would be good for anyone, in any way,” Commissioner Mike Samson said of efforts to bring wolves into the state.
But in fact, many people in Colorado want wolves here, according to one 2019 poll.
Paid for by the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, the poll showed that 67% of Coloradans support wolf introduction.
With so many supporting wolves in Colorado, Rob Edward, founder and president of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund backing the initiative, says it’s high time to get started.
“The bottom line is, we have so much information now about how important wolves are to the landscape, and we know we have the people behind us both on the Front Range and the Western Slope. It’s time to get this done,” Edward said.
Edward is behind the effort of putting wolf introduction on the ballot for Colorado’s November 2020 general election. The initiative requires creating plans and bringing wolves into Colorado by the end of 2023.
Edward is confident that volunteers have collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot.
He’s also convinced of broad support for wolf introduction.
“We have the Western Slope with us, it’s just a matter of helping people understand the nuances of living with wolves,” Edward said.
On the Western Slope, where the wolves would be introduced if Initiative 107 passes, 61% of respondents favored wolf introduction, according to the poll.
Those opposed to wolf reintroduction have a number of concerns.
“Not only do (wolves) kill the cattle, but they bother them, they chase them around and stir them up,” and as a result, there are fewer cattle pregnancies, Garfield County rancher Frank Daley told the commissioners.
Based on his experience with coyotes, Daley also worries that the cattle made anxious by wolves will break fences and injure calves.
“We definitely don’t need to add in another predator,” he said.
The impact on wildlife is another concern.
“We do not want to have wolves reintroduced into the state of Colorado for many reasons, one of which is that it would be devastating for the moose, elk and deer populations of our state, not to mention domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep,” Samson said.
The effect of wolves on elk and deer where they have been reintroduced in isn’t completely settled.
In 2004, the Colorado Department of Wildlife, which has since been renamed Parks and Wildlife, commissioned the wolf working group, recommended managing wolves that came into the state, but tabled reintroduction efforts.
Garfield County commissioners see their opposition as continuing that management plan.
“The wolves are kind of introducing themselves and they are getting into Colorado from Wyoming and the southern part from New Mexico,” Jankovsky said.
A group seeking voter approval to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado says it has collected around 168,000 signatures to get the question put on the ballot.
That number is more than the 124,000 signatures needed to make the ballot, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, the primary backer of the initiative, told The Center Square. The group is aiming for 30,000 more signatures before it needs to submit them to the Secretary of State’s Office for verification by mid-December.
The Colorado Restore Gray Wolf Population Initiative would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (CPW) to create and execute a plan to restore gray wolf populations on designated lands west of the continental divide.
Wolves hunting elk in the Rocky Mountains. Courtesy National Park Service.
“When we succeed in safely restoring wolves to their home in Western Colorado, we will have closed the missing link and restored the gray wolf’s historical range from the High Arctic to Mexico,” RMWAF says on its website.
If passed, implementing the initiative would cost (CPW) over $344,000 in fiscal year 2021-22 and over $467,000 in fiscal year 2022-23, according to a legislative fiscal impact statement.
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, a parallel group to the action fund that educates on wolf restoration in the state, is backed by the Sierra Club Colorado, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Endangered Species Coalition, among other environmental groups.
The Stop the Wolf Coalition, which is made up of several farming, livestock and hunting groups, opposes the initiative, citing potential damage to livestock and wildlife, diseases, and overcrowding in the state.
“Forced wolf introduction is not only a disastrous idea that will impact our wildlife, livestock and Colorado’s growing population,but it’s also not fair to the wolves,” the coalition’s website says.
“A forced introduction of wolves to Colorado would cost untold amounts of taxpayer dollars, redirect already limited wildlife management resources and would have a significant negative economic impact to the state,” said Blake Henning, chief conservation officer for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “In Colorado, you are dealing with about a third of the land mass of the Northern Rockies’ states but almost double the human population. A forced reintroduction would trigger the potential for real issues in the state.”
JACKSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — A recent sighting of a possibly Gray Wolf in Jackson County has stirred up an old debate about reintroducing wolves to Colorado. Members of The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund are currently gathering signatures to get a measure on the 2020 ballot to do that.
(credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
“We believe that the right thing to do is give the people of Colorado a voice in restoring the balance,” said Rob Edward, President of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund.
Rob Edward (credit: CBS)
Edward says Colorado has the largest elk population in North America and one of the largest deer populations. He adds that without wolves, the two go unchecked and can cause destruction in places like Rocky Mountain National Park.
“The elk have stripped the river corridors bare. They’re putting fences around large swaths of the park in order to help the Aspen and willow regenerate. Wolves would change that dynamic over the course of a decade,” Edward told CBS4’s Dominic Garcia.
But not everyone is excited about the recent wolf sighting. Phillip Anderson is a rancher in Jackson County, where the possible wolf was spotted. He worries about his livestock.
“We’re small ranchers and our livelihood depends on keeping the calf and lamb from the point in time it’s born to the time we market it, keeping it alive. We don’t want wolves here,” he told CBS4.
Edward says he understands the concerns, and that’s why reimbursement to ranchers who lose livestock to wolves is in their ballot measure. But he adds that the overall threat is blown out of proportion.
“The fact is that wolves don’t pose a significant threat to livestock, and they don’t pose any threat to our burgeoning elk and deer population. In fact they pose the best answer to helping get things back in balance again.”
At the height of the tourist season at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018, a plump black bear ambled into the lobby of the nearby Stanley Hotel. It climbed onto a large, cherry wood table, examined an antique couch, gave it a deliberate sniff and then sauntered back out the door it had come in.
Estes Park, Colorado, the gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park, has what most would consider a problem. Overzealous bears regularly wander into unexpected and inappropriate human places: the warmly lit kitchens of residents, inviting alleyway garbage cans; they commonly thrash their way into tourist vehicles to investigate a scent.
As the population of Colorado’s Front Range swells, visitation to Rocky Mountain National Park, too, has spiked. That’s only meant more encounters with wildlife and increased reports of “problem” bears that have become highly accustomed to humans and consistently rummage for scraps.
But it’s the very possibility of encountering these animals that encourages so many people to move to places like Estes Park and to visit its surrounding wildish areas. As much as our proximity to wildlife confounds our natural resource managers, it continues to delight a great many humans.
In recent years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers have worked with the city of Estes Park to adopt practices to better cohabitate with our non-human neighbors. In 2015, the town passed a wildlife ordinance that’s lessened a hungry bear’s access to its greatest temptation: trash. Residents must use either a wild-resistant container or put trashcans outside only on pickup days. Beyond efforts among the residential streets, the city also replaced all of the public trash containers in 2016. And though it was an expensive project, a whopping $1,200 for each individual canister, the community pitched in through an innovative sponsorship program.
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The city continues to educate newcomers and visitors through a regular “Bear Booth” at the weekly farmer’s market, and provides tip sheets for behavior to keep wildlife safe that are enclosed in city utility bills and newsletters. Residents are advised that all bird feeders must be suspended and out of reach of a clawing bear. Police department volunteer auxiliary officers help patrol garbage cans and dumpsters with weekly driving rounds and provide information to rule-breakers.
While the town has made progress, there are still challenges ahead. More people visited the area during the 2018 season — more than 4.5 million people — than ever before, a trend that is expected to continue, and many tourists are unaware of safe wildlife interaction practices. It’s also an ongoing challenge for wildlife managers and town officials to police the many new small-scale vacation rentals that pop up.
And while chubby black bears awkwardly navigating the ever-intruding human world are undeniably endearing —wildlife encounters frequently go viral online, after all —the best advice wildlife managers offer is painstaking simple: Ignore them and let them be wild.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Wildlife officials in Colorado have killed a bear near Meeker after previously relocating it from Steamboat Springs. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers killed the bear Monday after it disturbed a farmer’s beehive.
Officers relocated the 2-year-old cinnamon-colored black bear on April 8 after the animal got into several residential dumpsters downtown.
Officers tranquilized the bear after it approached a day care center.
Steamboat resident Kevin Dietrich captured several photos of the bear.
“Such a great looking bear. Lock up the trash fellow downtown residents,” Dietrich wrote on Facebook.
(credit: Kevin Dietrich)
Steamboat area wildlife manager Kris Middledorf says this is the first bear the agency has killed in the state this year. Middledorf says days like Monday, where wildlife officials have to put down an animal, are “the worst.”
(credit: Matt Helm)
Middledorf urges residents to be vigilant about securing their trash and other wildlife attractants.