What to know about reintroducing wolves in Colorado
Colorado will reintroduce 10 to 15 wolves a year on the Western Slope starting in 2024 until reaching a maximum of 50 as part of a voter-approved initiative.
Why it matters: The effort is the first voter-approved wildlife recovery plan in the country to be implemented. In all other cases, the federal government directs the management through the Endangered Species Act.
Driving the news: The details in a 293-page draft plan released Friday by Gov. Jared Polis' administration outline how the state will rebuild a once-native species after it was hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.
- Two zones under consideration for winter release points are located along the Interstate 70 corridor between Glenwood Springs and Vail, southward toward the Roaring Fork Valley and the U.S. 50 area between Montrose in the west and Monarch Pass east of Gunnison.
- The specific areas are yet-to-be determined, but will remain 60 miles from tribal lands and state borders because wolves roam beyond their territory.
What they're saying: "Wolves generally fear people and rarely present a threat to human safety," Eric Odell, species conservation program manager, told Colorado Parks and Wildlife during a presentation.
Catch up quick: In 2020, voters narrowly passed (50.9% to 49.1%) Proposition 114, authored by wolf advocates, to require the state to reintroduce gray wolves.
- The result sparked lingering controversy given its huge support in the Denver area but widespread opposition in rural counties, where the impact will be felt.
- The plan came after nearly 50 public meetings and dozens of sessions held by two advisory groups since the initiative's passage.
Between the lines: Wolves already live in Colorado. Since 2019, when one crossed the border from Wyoming, officials have documented three other sightings and most recently confirmed six pups in Jackson County in June.
- At least three younger wolves were legally killed in October by hunters just across the Wyoming border.
- It's possible others are located around White River National Forest in northwest Colorado because of recent cattle deaths that remain unexplained.
What's next: The state will hold five public listening sessions on the draft plan, starting in January, before issuing a final report April 6. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission will take a final vote in early May.
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