Mar 252004
Authors: Jamie Way

The call of the wild may be dialing Colorado soon.

An experimental population of wolves released in Wyoming, among

other states, in 1999 has been spotted moving closer to the

Colorado state line, according to Al Pfister, western Colorado

supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This has some experts considering what actions would need to be

taken if the wolves did indeed make their way into Colorado.

“It’s considered fairly likely (that the wolves will move into

Colorado),” Pfister said. “There were some seen around Baggs, and

that’s near the border.”

According to Pfister it has been decades since a wolf was

spotted in Colorado; Colorado must handle a unique situation if

wolves do enter the state.

Colorado is divided into two sections. North of I-70 wolves are

considered threatened, meaning that if Wyoming’s management plan is

accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the wolves could

become de-listed and their management would then be the

responsibility of Colorado, according to Gary Skiba, a wildlife

biologist for the Division of Wildlife.

“South of I-70 is a totally different situation,” Skiba


South of I-70, wolves are considered endangered, and therefore

not solely the responsibility of Colorado.

In anticipation of wolves entering the state, Skiba is

developing a team of people who understand the needs and concerns

of various groups concerning wolves.

Among these groups are sportsmen, local governments,

environmentalists and livestock producers.

“The ranchers and livestock producers are concerned about

deprivation of livestock,” Skiba said.

The executive vice president of the Colorado Cattleman’s

Association, Terry Fankhauser, said he is concerned about

Colorado’s preparedness for the wolf.

“What we’re very concerned about is the natural behavior of the

wolf,” he said.

According to Fankhauser, Colorado currently does not have a plan

in place for the management of wolves attacking cattle, but

suggests returning the wolves to where they were initially


“What we’re supporting is capturing those wolves and retuning

them to where they were introduced,” he said.

Opinions vary as to when the wolves are expected to enter


“We have biologists that work with wolves that think it will

happen any day now,” Skiba said. “There are others that think it

will take a long time to happen or not happen at all.”

Skiba said the group plans to draft a plan by August and have a

final plan by the end of the year.

“Our job is to manage wildlife the way the people of the state

want,” Skiba said.

Rob Edwards, the director of Carnivore Restoration for Sinapu,

said wolves would benefit the natural lifecycle by keeping elk

alert, which keeps them from overgrazing one area. Without

overgrazing, willow and aspen regenerate, which in turn increases

the prevalence of songbirds, he said.

“There’s a big ripple through the system when you don’t have

coursing predators (predators that chase their pray over long

distances),” he said. “We can’t afford to wait another 50 years to

see if wolves will trickle down. We owe it to our grandchildren to

weave them back into the landscape of the Southern Rockies as soon

as possible.”

Environmentalists and livestock producers alike are passionate

about how the wolf issue is handled.

“We get upset about this because we incur the death loss,”

Bonnie Kline of the Colorado Wool Growers Association.

Kline said that if the wolves enter the state they should be

radio collared.

“Ideally, we would like them captured and transported back to

their state of origin,” Kline said.

Kline and many of her fellow livestock producers are concerned

with the financial problems that wolves may create for them.

“We’re not against the wolves themselves. We’re against the

damage they do,” Kline said. “We’re against having to shoulder the

financial burden of having wolves in the state.”

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