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
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
“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.”