MEEKER | Proposed 2020 ballot measures touted by wolf activists are an attempt to force the release of gray wolves in Colorado. The carefully constructed nature of the initiative leads the uninformed reader to believe that wolves are extinct in Colorado (they are not, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has confirmed sightings of wolves that have migrated into the state); and that wolves can’t get here on their own (as wolf packs continue to increase in numbers and expand their range, wolves will naturally colonize our state). According to the U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service, “It is not uncommon for wolf territories to be as large as 50 square miles but they may even extend up to 1,000 square miles in areas where prey is scarce. Wolves often cover large areas to hunt, traveling as far as 30 miles a day. Although they trot along at 5 m.p.h., wolves can attain speeds as high as 40 m.p.h. Most wolves disperse from the pack they were born into by age three. Dispersing wolves have traveled as far as 600 miles.”
With the initial release of 31 wolves in Yellowstone National Park and 35 wolves released in central Idaho, wolves rapidly colonized surrounding areas. By 2015 the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population was estimated to be in excess of 1,700 wolves. From this initial release, wolves have migrated into Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, and Colorado.
History shows that wolves decimate their prey base of elk, moose, and deer. A single wolf kills an estimated 16-22 elk per year. In the 1990s, the West Yellowstone elk herd was estimated at 19,000 head and had plummeted to ~4,900 by 2015. Idaho’s Lolo elk herd was estimated at ~13,000 in 1994, and was reduced to ~1,945 by 2016. Wolves are essentially eliminating the Shiras moose populations in areas that packs roam, reducing moose number by 50-75 percent, and even up to a 90 percent loss in some areas. Through the tremendous efforts of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (funded by sportsmen’s dollars), Colorado has one of the last great remaining Shiras moose herds in the western United States.
While the ballot initiatives gives a token acknowledgement of wolf depredation of livestock, it totally ignores the devastating impacts to our big game herds. Its fiscal impact statements simply offers no lucid plan to pay for the damaging impact of wolves or the overall management cost of wolves. At $344,363 FY 2021-22, the fiscal impact statement is deliberately misleading, and grossly underestimates the management cost of wolves. Wyoming Game and Fish recently released their 2018 cost of managing wolves, a staggering $1.2 million. The initiative largely ignores The Findings and Recommendations for Managing Wolves that Migrate into Colorado which states, “The CPW should operate a wolf damage fund within the Colorado Game Damage Program, but the funds for wolf damage payments and staff to administer the program should not be derived from sportsmen’s dollars and should not encroach upon other game damage payment programs.”
The 2020 ballot initiatives are a trojan horse that idolizes an apex predator that severely compromises the viability of our big game herds; wreaks devastating losses on livestock; is a known disease carrier (gray wolf disease/hydatid disease); kills pets and threatens human safety.
To learn more facts about the real impacts of wolves, and protecting our Colorado heritage, please visit our website: stopthewolf.org (Colorado Stop the Wolf Coaliton).
By BONNIE BROWN
COLORADO WOOL GROWERS ASSOC. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Special to the HT