Can Colorado’s ecosystem thrive without wolves?

To say that Colorado ranchers are howling mad over the science being used to justify wolf reintroduction in the southern Rockies would be to overstate their case slightly … and use an unpardonably bad pun in the process.

But, according to The Summit Daily News, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association is attacking the science behind a petition recently filed by the conservation group WildEarth Guardians that seeks to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FOW) Service to develop a wolf reintroduction plan for the southern Rockies, including Colorado.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in the state but environmentalists for several years have been pushing to reintroduce the predators with a program similar to the somewhat successful reintroduction of the bobcat-like Canada lynx in the 1990s. The groups argue wolves are needed to thin dangerously overpopulated deer and elk herds.

Ranchers counter that other predators such as bears, mountain lions and lynx can do the job, but environmentalists say nothing can replace the wolf when it comes to taking out deer and elk and stopping them from overrunning critical wetlands, which provide habit for smaller mammals, birds and fish.

The ranchers, in a press release opposing the plan, say compensation programs for lost livestock that are used in other states with wolf populations don’t adequately consider an animal’s breeding potential. Conservation groups could ultimately sue the federal government to move the plan forward.

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.

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