DENVER— At least half of the six wolves spotted moving into northwestern Colorado earlier this year were recently shot and killed just over the border in Wyoming. The remaining wolves’ status and whereabouts are uncertain.
“This event is sadly not unexpected, given the earlier sightings’ proximity to Wyoming and that state’s open-fire policy on wolves,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Thankfully, even with this heartbreaking loss, wolves in Colorado are protected by federal and state law, which means reintroduction to the San Juans and other elk-rich habitats can still be accomplished.”
In January the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department announced the presence of the six wolves in the state’s northwest. DNA analysis found the group consists of mostly brothers and sisters. The sighting prompted wolf opponents to claim that reintroduction is unnecessary and that Coloradoans should simply wait for wolves to reclaim the state on their own.
“Whoever killed these wolves unwittingly demolished the myth of wandering wolves re-colonizing Colorado,” said Rob Edward, president of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund. “Their actions underscore what scientists have said all along: wolves from Wyoming will never give rise to a viable population in Colorado.”
On Colorado’s ballot this November is Proposition 114, which if approved would instruct the Parks and Wildlife Department to develop and implement a science-based restoration plan for the gray wolf rooted in reintroducing the species to the state.
For a wolf population to establish itself in Colorado again, conservationists say, the department must develop and implement a science-based plan informed by statewide public meetings that leads to reintroducing a few dozen wolves to western Colorado. Such reintroductions can be done in a cost-effective manner and would restore a natural balance to ecosystems where wolves have been absent for decades.
Several wolves that were reintroduced to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996 were killed by poachers, but with federal protection, use of radio collars, robust law enforcement and overall respect for law, the vast majority survived and established a tri-state population in the northern Rocky Mountains. Just two of those 66 reintroduced animals were killed illegally. Similar results can be expected if wolves are reintroduced to the vast, secure and highly suitable public wildlands of western Colorado.