What you need to know about a ballot effort to bring wolves back to Colorado

Should voters make this call of the wild?

The last time Colorado was home to gray wolves was in the 1940s. Supporters of reintroducing the endangered species to Colorado are busy gathering signatures to put a measure on next November's ballot. (Public domain photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr: Creative Commons)
The last time Colorado was home to gray wolves was in the 1940s. Supporters of reintroducing the endangered species to Colorado are busy gathering signatures to put a measure on next November's ballot. (Public domain photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr: Creative Commons)

Over the next month, an army of volunteers will continue fanning across the state making sure they’ve gathered enough signatures to put a much-debated question on the November 2020 ballot: Should voters reintroduce gray wolves onto public lands in western Colorado where they once roamed but haven’t since the 1940s?

If volunteers successfully gather the necessary 124,632 signatures by Dec. 13, you could get a shot at deciding whether Colorado gets its wolves back along with whether to re-elect President Donald Trump or send a new U.S. senator to Washington. A group backing Initiative 107 says it already has enough signatures, but is gathering more just to be safe. 

If the question makes the ballot, it will be the first time voters anywhere in the nation will decide whether to reintroduce gray wolves. 

Backing this potential ballot measure is some serious money; the effort already has raked in nearly $1 million, with much of it flowing in from out of state. In a state with a growing rural-urban divide, the question pits wolf lovers and some environmental- and conservation-minded folks against some ranchers and sportsmen and opponents who decry “forced wolf introduction.” Others say Colorado, once part of the wolf’s native prowling range, is just not the same place it was when wolves prowled here. Colorado’s neighborhoods and cities are encroaching further into wild spaces, and demographers expect the state’s population to nearly double in the next 30 years.

Those who want the wolf back say reintroduction would help restore the state’s ecological balance as it has in places like Yellowstone National Park. Wolf packs there cut down an out-of-control elk herd that had over-grazed grasslands and caused soil erosion, among other problems. Some supporters have indicated wolves could even help mitigate the “sixth great extinction event” — an ongoing mass extinction event of species as a result of human activity — because of the wolf’s effect on its surrounding ecosystem. 

But opponents say bringing wolves back now through a state popular vote is a big bad idea. It would be an exercise in “ballot-box biology” — putting a wildlife science question in the hands of average voters — according to Mark Holyoak, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which opposes the idea. Recently, county commissioners in Garfield unanimously approved a non-binding resolution opposing wolf reintroduction. Their fellow Western Slope commissioners in  Mesa and Moffat counties have passed similar resolutions.

Simmering beneath the wolf question is a larger tension about what’s best for everyone, from those who live along  Colorado’s bustling I-25 and I-70 corridors to those who live in its expansive rural areas. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, some see the potential ballot measure as one that “allows wolf-lovers in Denver and Boulder to make a decision that would affect ranchers and hunters in the western part of the state.” More recently, a man writing in The Montrose Daily Press said of the wolf measure, “a group of folks, mostly over in the urban Front Range” wants to “put 50 serial killers on the loose in our mountains.”

The rhetoric is heated, and perhaps unlike other issues voters could decide next year, this isn’t a partisan debate; it’s a more philosophical one about nature and society. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What is the gray wolf and where did it go?

Technically, we’re talking about Canis Lupus. That’s the Latin name. Colloquially, some call it the “timber wolf.”

The name of the wolf matters because this wolf — and only this wolf  — is the one addressed in Colorado’s potential ballot measure. The gray wolf is not to be confused with the Mexican wolf subspecies, for instance. 

Gray wolves used to prowl Colorado, but by the mid-20th century, hunters wiped them out from most of the lower 48 states. The federal government began establishing protections for the gray wolf in the late ’60s and classified it as endangered species in 1978 under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, only about 1,200 gray wolves survived in the lower 48 — nearly all of them in northeastern Minnesota, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) factsheet. 

The agency says there are now more than 6,000 wolves in the lower 48 states. The vast majority live in two large groups, one distributed among Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the other group dispersed in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and Washington and north-central Utah.

Wolves have migrated into Colorado over the years, but sightings have been rare. The state wildlife department is reportedly investigating two sightings this year. In 2004, a state wildlife department working group of farmers, wildlife advocates, sportsmen, biologists and government officials, came to an agreement for how the agency would manage wolves if they naturally migrated into the state.

Colorado, it should be noted, previously has reintroduced other animals, including the lynx in 1999, elk in the 1900s, bison in 2015, and turkeys in the 1980s. 

So why are we talking about these wolves now?

One big reason: 2020 is a big election year. 

Turnout is always higher in presidential elections, but 2020 will bring the re-election bids of President Donald Trump and Colorado’s junior senator, Cory Gardner. With control of the Senate and future direction of the country at stake, supporters of the measure are looking at a highly engaged electorate. If there was ever a time to push this, it’s probably now. 

Adding urgency for supporters of the initiative: The Department of the Interior proposed in March removing the gray wolf from the list of endangered species.

“The gray wolf no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who is from Rifle, Colorado, said about the proposal.

Gray wolves have already been “delisted” in the northern Rocky Mountain states where the population has rebounded. The various states have assumed management of their wolf populations. Colorado would do the same were it to reintroduce wolves that had been or were later removed from the endangered species list. But for now, if the ballot initiative passes, management of the packs would remain under federal jurisdiction.

Finally, the Colorado legislature just hasn’t done much about this yet. 

“I think what it boils down to is that it hasn’t been a priority,” says Nick Levendofsky, director of external affairs for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, an advocacy group for family ranchers and farmers. “This is an issue that hasn’t been driven by anybody except for the groups that are pushing for it to come to the ballot.”

A ballot measure is a way to put this issue in the hands of voters, and there seems to be enough money and will behind the effort to make a robust push in a busy election year. 

In Colorado, it’s relatively easy to make laws and policy by asking voters directly instead of having to rely on lawmakers at the Capitol. That’s why we have legalized recreational marijuana and a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Unlike those, however, the wolf ballot measure would change state law, not the state’s Constitution. 

This is not the first time policymakers here have debated the wolf issue, though. 

In 1982, 1989, 2004, and 2016, Colorado Parks and Wildlife met to “discuss wolf reintroduction,” says John Murtaugh, the Rockies and Plains representative for a D.C. based organization called Defenders of Wildlife, which made a $100,000 in-kind donation to the Wolf Action Fund. “Each time they discussed it,” he adds, “they arrived at the same conclusion, which is that they don’t have the authority to make this decision.”

That’s true, says state wildlife department spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell. In 2016, the Parks and Wildlife Commission (PWC), made up of 11 appointed members, reconsidered the issue of wolf reintroduction, and upheld previous conclusions that only the state legislature  — not the PWC or Colorado Parks and Wildlife — has the authority to approve reintroduction of endangered species, including wolves. 

So, if lawmakers don’t seem all that jazzed to do it, wolf advocates are asking voters to do it for them. 

What would the proposed ballot measure do?

If it passes, the new law starts a series of steps that would end with some eventual number of wolves being introduced onto public lands in the western part of the state. The ballot language also provides compensation for those who lose their livestock to wolves. 

Initiative 107 would direct the Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to introduce wolves here “using the best scientific data available” and also to hold public hearings to gather “scientific, economic, and social considerations.”

The commission would have to figure out the details  — how many wolves exactly, where they would come from, how they’d be managed, what the compensation program would look like —  based on these hearings and testimony. The commission also would have to develop methodologies for determining when the gray wolf population is sustaining itself and “when to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered or threatened species” as provided by state law.

The plan would be to start reintroducing wolves to Colorado by 2023. 

What are the arguments for reintroducing wolves? 

Since it was humans who pushed wolves out of our state’s borders decades ago, for some supporters, restoring the gray wolf feels like an obligation to restore ecological balance.

On a recent Thursday at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, animal caretaker supervisor Erika Moore explained why she supports the idea. “Bringing back wolves is hopefully going to have the same effect it did in Yellowstone where it actually revived the ecosystem,” she said. 

Coloradans could decide next November whether the state should introduce the gray wolf to its public lands.This 11-year-old wolf, Koda, is among other wolves, coyotes, and foxes at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, CO. Koda was adopted from a wolf facility in Lake George, CO. (Photo taken Oct. 3, 2019 by Alesandra Tejeda)
Coloradans could decide next November whether the state should introduce the gray wolf to its public lands.This 11-year-old wolf, Koda, is among other wolves, coyotes, and foxes at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, CO. Koda was adopted from a wolf facility in Lake George, CO. (Photo taken Oct. 3, 2019 by Alesandra Tejeda)

The 1995 reintroduction of the wolf in Yellowstone National Park is something that comes up often in conversations with wolf-measure supporters. Wolves culled overpopulating herds of elk and deer, which restored grasses, preventing soil erosion, keeping streams cleaner, aiding fish populations and more in a complicated series described as a “trophic cascade.” In other words, the introduction of an apex predator, the wolf, created a domino effect of ecological triggers from the top down that ultimately brought a natural balance back to the park. 

“We do believe that wolves are necessary for the ecosystem,” Moore said, outside a gift shop of wolf-themed memorabilia. “The ecosystems cannot support how many elk and deer we have, and over time we’re going to start to see a degradation of ecosystems due to that.”

Some proponents claim introducing wolves could help alleviate Colorado’s issue with Chronic Wasting Disease, a neurological disease affecting elk, deer, and moose. It results in slow degeneration and eventual death. 

Catherine Herzog, wildlife chair for the Pikes Peak group of the Sierra Club, was trying recently to persuade voters to sign petitions outside the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. “Half the herd of deer in the state of Colorado are infected with Chronic Wasting Disease,” she said. The CPW’s Ferrell confirmed that this is the case. 

But, some opponents argue that the disease would still be spread through feces. Opponents and proponents cite different sources for their claims. 

“To date,” says Jennifer Strickland, public affairs specialist for the Mountain-Prairie region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “there is no empirical evidence to support or refute” either position.  

For Montana Democratic State Sen. Mike Phillips, a biologist who serves as director of the Ted Turner Endangered Species Fund and who has been involved in wolf restoration advocacy since 1995, reintroducing wolves here is about more than just Colorado, it’s about public lands across the country. 

“The gray wolf remains fully protected under federal law. Consequently, its conservation future is relevant to all Americans,” he said in an Oct. 23 phone interview on his way to give a public talk in Denver about the wolf reintroduction battle. “This is a national issue.”   

Wolves, he argues, have the capacity to inspire humans to be better. “How can you stand by and watch something you love be needlessly destroyed without rising up in defense?” he asks. If science makes clear that the “fate of humanity” is determined by the health of local landscapes, he argues, introducing wolves are both a symbol and a solution. 

Others want to bring the wolf back to Colorado because it is the last state within the animal’s historic range that does not have them. To these supporters of reintroduction, it’s imperative that Colorado restore wolves, connecting the missing puzzle piece between the Arctic and the Mexican border. 

There is something else: Plenty of voters might just like the romantic image of a wolf out there in the Colorado wilderness howling from a mountaintop. Some even believe “wolf tourism” could be a thing. 

What are the arguments against reintroduction?

Some opponents just don’t want to see such a serious issue left to the average voter. Rather, they believe wildlife managers should make the call. 

“If the initiative is approved,” says Holyoak of the elk-hunting sportsman group, “proponents may claim that ‘management itself would be left up to wildlife managers and professional biologists and ecologists,’ but that is after the fact that wolves would be introduced.” 

In other words, the average voter is not a biologist who can appropriately determine where wolves should be reintroduced. 

Another line of attack counters any possible ecological benefit. Just as pro-wolf folks use Yellowstone National Park as an argument for the introduction, so, too, does the anti-wolf crowd.

“Elk populations have diminished, their Shiras moose are basically extinct,” says Denny Behrens, an anti-wolf advocate. “In Colorado, the Shiras moose has become an icon; everybody wants to see a moose. So why would we introduce an apex predator that goes specifically after moose?” 

However, according to Yellowstone National Park, predators are not solely to blame for a decline in moose populations over 40 years. Hunting outside the park, burning of habitat, and loss of old-growth forests also have played a role.

Behrens also argues that Colorado, with a burgeoning population of 5.6 million, does not have the space for wolves. 

“That’s why I’m opposed to it,” said Lucy Harrington, a wildlife biologist who had just discouraged her father from signing a pro-wolf petition outside Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on a recent Sunday afternoon in Colorado Springs. “I love the idea [of wolf reintroduction],” she said. “But the reality is it’s just going to end up in a lot of wildlife-human conflict and the eventual eradication of wolves in the state.” 

Some opponents contend too many wolves cutting down on elk and deer herds will hinder the state’s big game hunting tourism economy, which likely would not be mitigated by any kind of “wolf tourism.” 

For others, the wolf program, which could cost taxpayers between $300,000 and $500,000 between 2021 and 2023, just isn’t a funding priority.

“We have bigger problems to invest money in,” said Andrey Tsepelev, a Colorado resident who also declined to sign a petition at the zoo. 

Some opponents also say they’re OK with wolves that naturally migrate into the state, but for them to be deliberately relocated here is a problem.

But the notion that wolves could return naturally is misleading, says Rick Ridder, a high-profile Denver-based political consultant who worked on seven presidential campaigns and is advising the pro-wolf effort. Too many obstacles exist, he says, including highways and territories to cross where it’s legal to shoot wolves. 

Where is the money coming from so far in this fight?

First off, there’s a lot of it. 

As of Oct. 15, Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund had raised and spent nearly $800,000, according to state records. 

The Tides Center, a progressive San Francisco-based charity that calls itself “the leading fiscal sponsor for social change initiatives in the United States,” has donated roughly $264,000. Defenders of Wildlife gave $100,000 for signature-gathering. The Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund gave $50,000. 

Internet pop-culture icon Timothy Ferriss, another top contributor, donated $100,000. The entrepreneur, podcaster, and best-selling author known for his 2007 book The 4-Hour Workweek, has built a fanbase of millions for his podcasts and videos about life hacks. In August, Patch reported he hosted Phillips, the pro-wolf Montana senator, on an episode of his podcast and launched a $100,000 matching challenge with his listeners.

The Colorado Sierra Club, a member of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project’s coalition to push for wolf restoration, has donated just over $10,000.

Fighting the effort is an organization called Stop the Wolf Coalition, a collection of ranchers and sportsmen, and groups like the Colorado Wool Growers. Groups like the Colorado Farm Bureau have said their members have concerns about reintroducing wolves. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union oppose the effort. 

A group called Coloradans Protecting Wildlife, made up of the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and Colorado Wool Growers’ Association, has also formed to fight a potential 2020 ballot measure. 

“We don’t have the big-money environmental radicals that the opposition has, or that the pro-wolf people have,” says J. Paul Brown, a former GOP lawmaker and sheep and cattle rancher from Ignacio who is also a member of the Stop the Wolf Coalition. He says those who might have funds to fight it might be keeping their powder dry to see if the measure actually makes it on the ballot. “It’s an uphill battle for us,” he says. 

To what extent could this issue reflect Colorado’s rural-urban divide?

“I think it’s very reflective,” says Levendofsky of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. People who live “in a bubble here in the Front Range,” he says, “don’t have an understanding of what goes on on the Eastern Plains or on the Western Slope.”

The editorial board of The Durango Herald in southwestern Colorado posited: “We believe it is possible that some people – some farmers and ranchers – could be taught to co-exist with big predators, if they saw the value in restoring ecosystems; but that will not happen because four-fifths of Boulder voters say “yes!” to wolves.” 

In an interview, Brown of the Stop the Wolf Coalition charges that those trying to put the question on the ballot are “people on the Front Range — bunch of city dudes” who are trying to “cram it down our throats.” 

“It’s a bunch of uneducated folks that are going to put it in our backyard and not their backyard,” he said. “And it’s just wrong.”

In June, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel newspaper on the Western Slope published an editorial that read: “It’s the Western Slope where the wolves would be reintroduced. That makes it easy for the Front Range voters to love the idea of wolves roaming free in Colorado without worrying too much about pets becoming wolf snacks.”

Some proponents of the ballot measure, however, point to polling that suggests people throughout Colorado support wolf reintroduction. “What we’re seeing now is increasing acceptance, in our polling, that the Western Slope supports wolf reintroduction at the same level as the rest of the state,” Ridder says.

The polling data he’s talking about comes from Denver-based New Bridge Strategy, which found in March that two-thirds of Colorado voters out of 900 interviewed favored “restoring wolves in Western Colorado,” while 47% said they would “definitely” vote yes on a ballot proposal. 

Is there any room for compromise?

Folks on both sides believe that the news sometimes communicates extremes: whether it’s that wolves are vicious threats or that they are a cure-all for Colorado’s ecological problems.

“We don’t do well, even in our own communities that live so close to each other, trying to understand the other point of view,” says Bob Kjelland, director of communications for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. 

Defenders of Wildlife’s John Murtaugh says Coloradans could find a common cause if they start to trust each other a little bit.

“The nonprofit sector doesn’t have all the answers. The government doesn’t have all the answers. And the ranchers don’t have all the answers,” he says. “But if we can all get in a room together, bury the hatchet, and just talk about this because we’re trying to find a solution, I think together we can have those answers.”

Levendovsky says he also believes in compromise. Not necessarily in the end result, but in the process, which is why he opposes reintroduction being done through the ballot and not through votes in the General Assembly. 

“If you’re going to be an informed voter, if you’re going to be an informed citizen, you can’t just take one side of the issue into consideration,” he says. “You have to look at everything, you have to look at the entire picture. It might be difficult and it might be uncomfortable, but that’s how democracy works.” 

18 COMMENTS

    • Many conservatives are not opposed. Wolves have a 90% approval rating nationwide. It was Obama who had them delisted on a rider in MT so he could secure poor whites vote for Jon Tester.

  1. Absolutely NO! Because they kill off an overwhelming amount of our deer, and elk populations! Reasons they are low? CDOW limiting the killing of mountain lions, and bears. Now, because they are not what people typically want to hunt, we cannot recover our deer and elk populations fast enough. CDOW trying to control something with a college education. Liberals coming out of college controled by pure emotion. Not common sense!

    • you don’t know that these wolves would do that…the BIGGEST drawback is the fact that you are correct about the dwindling deer and elk herds…the problem is over hunting, building and living in their habitat, and drilling and fracking in the areas that are used by the wildlife to reproduce…the drilling and fracking are just as dangerous to wildlife as it is to human life…there is not only ONE cause of the depletion of the herds, but many different causes…look at the sides of the highways, and you will see more dead deer and elk than any wolf pack could kill in one season…so, this here Liberal has common sense ideas, and I live in these areas you not so familiar with….maybe, Austin, you need to do a little more research before you show yourself to be ignorant of what you speak ….

  2. Perhaps I’m missing something, do we have vast areas encompassing national parks such as Yellowstone park here in Colorado? In my discussions with people living near areas where they’ve reinstated the Gray Wolf there’s not been anything positive for wildlife, nor livestock, and even domesticated animals. The only positive was the positive increase in wolf counts. This discussion has to move past the emotional plea from advocates, who by the way nearly always don’t live any where near the impacted areas, and get the debate down to hard, cold, facts.
    I can’t see this going as the fantasy portrayed by advocates as there’s simply no such thing in this state as pristine expanses of wilderness. Guaranteed the greater amount of stories will be the horror stories of the families living nearby who would have to deal with the consequences of this measure. Once again, out of state money driving something needing to be strictly in state.

  3. The claim that wolves have “decimated” their prey populations in the states where they were reintroduced is patently false. Here are the numbers, starting with 1995, when wolves were reintroduced.

    Wyoming
    1995 elk population = 103,448
    2017 elk population = 104, 800

    1995 elk harvest = 17,695
    2017 elk harvest = 24,535, average hunter success rate = 35%

    Montana
    1995 elk population = 109,500
    2018 elk population = 138,470

    No harvest data for 1995
    2017 elk harvest = 30,348

    Idaho
    1995 elk population = 112,333
    2017 elk population = 116,800

    1995 elk harvest = 22,400
    2017 elk harvest = 22,751

    Source: State Fish & Game agencies.

    • Right those are the facts and the facts all support the wolf being reintroduced. 99% of what you hear from antis is nothing but long debunked fairytales, myths and conspiracy theories. Most claim the wolf biologists are all in on some illuminati conspiracy of some sort as well. Look up some of Dr Doug Smith’s videos on YouTube or Dr David Mech

  4. Hunters in states with wolves are experiencing record harvests of elk. Wolves make prey herds healthier, lowering incidents of diseases, including chronic wasting disease, by killing infected animals.

    Wolves are carnivores. More specifically, wolves are coursing predators, meaning they usually hunt in groups and chase their prey (as opposed to ambushing, like mountain lions). The primary prey of wolves in the Rockies is elk, although they will hunt deer and bison. Given that wolves evolved with the big game herds that sustain them, the myth that wolves could wipe out elk and deer populations doesn’t make sense; moreover, this myth is contradicted by a large body of science.

    Colorado has the largest elk population anywhere, with nearly 289,000 head of elk (per the most recent data from Colorado Parks & Wildlife). In fact, according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the state’s elk population is significantly over desired management objectives despite efforts to increase hunter opportunities. This overpopulation of elk is having a significant ecological impact and is negatively affecting the state’s deer herds (elk generally out-compete deer for habitat). Notably, Colorado’s deer population is tremendous, with over 400,000 as of the last count in 2017.

  5. So you place those of us who say that forcing any population against their will into an area they do not currently inhabit in the same category as sports hunters and ranchers? That’s interesting. Seeing how as a native woman who knows exactly how it feels to be forced to live where i didn’t choose because of colonizer (forced adoption) mentality I am saying it’s sinply not acceptable to do this to the wolves. You’re also from Wisconsin so how is it that you aren’t talking about how many wolves have been slaughtered there in the name of “conservation” and sports hunting as well as for the ranchers who irresponsibly use PUBLIC lands to leave their cattle and sheep on and then have wolves killed because their animals get eaten by them when that is the natural order of things. Where is the logic or common sense in literally forcibly releasing an unwilling animal into an area they haven’t chosen to live? You and other pro reintroduction advocates are not wolves therefore you all will NOT be suffering the consequences, only the wolves you all swear to live sooooo much eill be being killed. Not you all, just them. As human beings we aren’t able to manage our own species so why are we constantly debating the management of any other…..

  6. 50 percent of the deer here have CWD? Come on!

    Crazy how we will let a ballot determine wildlife conservation. Why do we have a Department of Wildlife? Our state is in a sad “state” of affairs these days. A true Western state devoured by ballot initiatives.

  7. One last comment, you drop a goldfish into a Piranha tank what happens? The same will happen to our moose when wolves are “Dropped” into the “tank”.

    Let them come here on their own like what we’re already seeing vs. the buzz-saw effect.

    • Chad,

      Your ignorance of ecology is on full display with your piranha/goldfish analogy. If you don’t understand specific predator/prey dynamics, don’t assert yourself with such conviction.

      Piranhas are not the fiendish flesh-rippers 1940s jungle films would have you believe, just as wolves, sharks, and all other forms of demonized predators are far less fiendish than our imaginations.

  8. To all the people that think they are so well educated because they went to college,let me say this by the book maybe you are,by common sense somebody took a vacation,first people aren’t gonna eat the sick and old deer population or that of the elk either and the last time I checked that’s mostly what wolves took care of,the weak,old and the sickly,those that could not survive on their own,no all these well educated people have a hidden agenda and I believe that agenda has to do with money,I can’t think of anything else other than just wanting to be stubborn and annoying,I cannot for the life of me figure out what all of these people out in the wide wide empty spaces of the west are so afraid of the big bad wolves, reality check they don’t eat people,scaredy cat’s, LMAO

  9. “Some opponents just don’t want to see such a serious issue left to the average voter. Rather, they believe wildlife managers should make the call. ”
    Not necessarily so. I live in Wisconsin where there is an ongoing struggle to ‘maintain’ a vibrant, healthy wolf population. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin DNR is populated with hold-over politician appointees of the Governor Scott Walker administration. There are vocal, powerful ‘kill wolves’ mind set in this state based upon erroneous wolf depredation myths. and pro wolf hunt sentiments. The politics tainted WDNR is opposed to most pro environment regulations and laws including, ‘especially’ including,science-based wolf protection.

  10. First of all good article, but a few things have not been touched on. First of all every major impact to our wildlife and the residence of this state has happened at the hands of voter initiatives pushed by groups that want to get a toe hold here in Colorado.

    Let’s talk about the repercussions of having voters decide wildlife biology. Voter initiative passed to ban leg hold traps and the repercussions of that is an explosion in the coyote population in our state which has been pushed into the urban areas to forage for food. The next was to ban spring bear hunting, use of dogs for bear hunting and the use of bait for bear hunting. All under the pretense that hunters were harvesting lactating sows. Now bear numbers have increased substantially and they have no fear of humans and forage in the urban areas. and Parks and Wildlife kills more problem bears then what hunters harvest in the field. There was a reason we used bait and dogs because bears are hard to hunt and if you used dogs or bait you can tell if you have a lactating sow or not. Parks and Wildlife this year lowered the cost of a non resident bear license and hunters can get two bear licenses in the hope the bear population can be reduced.

    We as hunters gave up mule deer hunting voluntarily for five years after the snow storm in the early eighties that almost wiped out the population. We have been under a draw system for a mule deer license after that five year period to this day. Introduce the wolf and the mule deer population may become an endangered species in our state. Funny how the bill is written that any wolf that migrates onto the eastern side of the continental divide they can then be killed. Every news story for the Front Range of Colorado anymore is about coyotes and mountain lions attacking people or eating their pets, Then you have the stories of the bear attacks at campgrounds and in the urban areas.

    Then the restrictions that anti hunting activist have pressured onto Parks and Wildlife to change how mountain lions are hunted. My father is Native American and has taught me the love and respect of the outdoors and the wildlife but humans have totally messed up wildlife biology in the name of development and greed. There is no room in our state for a top tier predator especially with the amount of people moving into our state who are now intruding into the backcountry in mass numbers. Me personally I don’t care about the attacks on people or their pets being eaten because they voted with emotion and now they must live with their decision but in the end it is the wildlife that always pays the price.

  11. Excellent story, non biased, every side of the debate well represented. I live on a large piece where I keep horses. I am retired and no longer work the land except restoration projects. I have bear, mountain lions , and a huge number of coyotes visiting fairly regularly. Only the coyotes are a problem, as their natural predator the wolf is missing, and they hunt in large groups at night and are not adverse to lure a dog out and skirmish. I believe wolves would be helpful in controlling the spectacular growth of the coyote population.

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