Dec 18, 2023 - News

Colorado set to reintroduce wolves to the wild this week

A captive wolf stands inside its enclosure at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide. Photo: Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

A captive wolf stands inside its enclosure at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide. Photo: Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

Gray wolves will return to the wild in Colorado as soon as Monday after a federal judge rejected a last-minute request to delay the voter-approved reintroduction.

Driving the news: Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials planned to capture five gray wolves in Oregon starting Sunday and release them in Eagle, Grand or Summit counties to meet the end-of-the-year deadline set in a 2020 ballot measure.

  • The state Cattlemen's Association and a Gunnison County livestock organization filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 11 seeking to block the move and require more review of the potential impact.
  • But a U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday the request is "contrary to the public's interest in seeing gray wolves released in Colorado."

What they're saying: Moments after the decision, the Polis administration announced plans to move ahead and environmental organizations that backed the ballot measure celebrated.

  • "Both science and Colorado voters have very clearly told us that wolves belong here," Alli Henderson, southern Rockies director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "Once wolves are reintroduced, they'll help restore balance to our state's ecosystems."

The other side: Ranchers are worried that wolves will kill their livestock and herding dogs on private and government-owned lands in Colorado.

  • The state's plan allows ranchers to receive up to $15,000 in compensation and allows ranchers to kill wolves threatening livestock.

Of note: Wolves that migrated from Wyoming into the state have killed at least seven cows on a ranch near Walden in the last two years, the Colorado Sun reports, including one last week.

The big picture: The plan is being closely watched. Colorado is the first state in the nation to approve the reintroduction of the species, and it required the consent of the Biden administration.

  • In the first three to five years, the state plans to reintroduce as many as 50 wolves in western Colorado.
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