Letter: Wolves deserve better

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Dear Editor:

Wolves are magnificent animals, and have a place in nature, but the real question is, “Is it our place to interfere with their natural migration into Colorado or should we impose human desires on nature by forcing them into Colorado?” Multiple times, state wildlife experts including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, along with scientists, conservationists, farmers and ranchers, and other stakeholders, have decided that wolves should not be forced into Colorado, but should be allowed to migrate here naturally.

Sanitizing the role of this apex predator does wolves a great injustice and sets them on a collision course of inevitable conflict in a settled landscape.

Stunning photos of wolves adorn calendars, coffee cups, and t-shirts belying the predatory nature of wolves; and instead, portraying a more idyllic (dare I say, fantasy?) notion of wolves. I wonder if the general public would be so enamored with wolves if they had to live with the reality.

Wolves are a cunning, top-of-the-food-chain predator that deserve serious respect and consideration. A single wolf eats an estimated 16-22 elk per year. Pack hunting by wolves is a force multiplier that enables wolves to take down larger prey like full grown bison, bull moose, beef cattle and horses. For example, last year, wolves attacked a draft horse in Wisconsin and the mare had to be put down because of her injuries. Highly territorial, wolves perceive domestic dogs as threats and will kill them, which can leave dog owners devastated and reeling from the horrific loss of a beloved pet. Wolf attacks on dogs have been documented in all nearby states with wolf populations: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, as well as Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Alaska.

A few simple truths…. Where wolf packs are present, elk, moose and deer populations decline due to predation and relocation. Relocation of prey species (fleeing the presence of wolves) brings its own suite of unintended consequences, not to mention immense stress on those animals. Of particular concern is the spread of chronic wasting disease when wolves change distribution patterns of infected wildlife and also serve as a vector to spread dangerous pathogens. In states with established wolf populations, deer and elk seek a protected haven on farm and ranch land which increases the risk of Lyme disease and hydatid (gray wolf) disease which are human health concerns.

Trophic cascade and the myth of the balanced ecosystem… While it is true that wolves can help reduce an overabundance of prey animals, the “balance” this brings to the ecosystem is but a fleeting moment before the pendulum swings the other way and wolves decimate their prey base.

Wolves are highly adaptable, and very successful at expanding their territory. Following the 1995-1996 release of 66 wolves in the northern Rockies, the wolf population quickly grew to over 1,700 wolves by 2015; and there are now likely more than 2,000 wolves roaming the Rockies, including Colorado.

Colorado has already made its choice about wolves — they do not belong here. With fragmented habitat and skyrocketing growth, there isn’t enough habitat to avoid conflicts and support an artificial population created by a forced release of non-native wolves. Colorado’s population of 5.7 million people is projected to reach 8.1 million by 2050. Ours is a very crowded state that aggressively promotes tourism and outdoor recreation, increasing our population with millions of visitors every year. Approximately one half of Colorado’s 66 million acres is privately owned farms and ranches; and according to the Colorado State Forest Service, “Approximately 186,000 landowners control 30 percent or 7.1 million acres of the state’s forested landscape.” Wolves require a vast range of unoccupied habitat, do not recognize property boundaries, and do not stay confined to public lands. This has been clearly demonstrated in other states, and as our state wildlife managers know, big game herds (prey species for wolves) do not stay in the high elevation, national forests all year. They migrate down to lower elevation, more highly populated areas during the winter.

With an estimated price tag of $6 million, and no concrete plans to fund long-term management, why are voters being asked to approve the release of non-native wolves when we already have wolves colonizing our state?

It’s time to Rethink Wolves. Colorado continues to have more verified sightings of wolves, as wolves naturally expand their range from the north and pioneer the limited habitat available in Colorado. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is internationally respected for its successful wildlife management practices. Leave wildlife management in the hands of the experts.

Wolves deserve better than being forcibly relocated and thrust into a crowded and complex environment that assures inevitable conflict. Let natural migration unfold, and in November, vote no on the forced release of captured wolves. Vote no for Colorado. Vote no for the wolves.

Bonnie Brown

Colorado Wool Growers Association

Bonnie Brown is a Western Slope native that enjoys hiking and riding her horses in the Grand Mesa, Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests. She is the Executive Director for the Colorado Wool Growers Association and volunteers for Coloradans Protecting Wildlife.

Visit www.RethinkWolves.com for more information.