Guest Column: Natural recolonization of wolves in Colorado is a red herring
- For over 10,000 years, grey wolves lived throughout Utah and Colorado and played an important role in shaping the landscape and maintaining balance in nature. Under state management, most subspecies of wolves were hunted and trapped to extinction. The highly endangered Mexican grey wolf is the most appropriate surviving subspecies for recovery in Utah and Colorado, and they cannot recover without help from all four states.
- Research out of UCLA demonstrates that Mexican gray wolves historically ranged into southern Colorado and southern Utah.
- Wolves are needed, be they Mexican gray wolves or northern wolves, to help repair western wildlands. Taking a lesson from Yellowstone and the important role of top predators in ecosystems, many of us would welcome lobos throughout the Southwest.
- We can’t count on natural dispersal to create a viable wolf population in Colorado. There are too few wolves dispersing and too many mortality hazards exist to create a viable population. The odds of individuals crossing state lines and safely finding each other and successfully mating are low. Reintroductions are needed to ensure the return of the wolf to Colorado.
- Coloradans value healthy landscapes and healthy wildlife populations, and that includes the important but now-absent role of wolves in the environment. Colorado has some of the best remaining suitable habitat for wolves in the Lower-48.
- Recent polling shows that 70% of Coloradans support the state restoring wolves in Colorado wilderness areas.
- The author doesn’t mention Mexican gray wolves, but scientists have determined both that the lobo used to range into southern Colorado, and that our state is absolutely necessary for the recovery of these rare wolves.
- States have failed to manage wildlife as a public trust for current and future citizens. State wildlife policies, which kill off predators to supposedly support game populations, are rooted in the 1800s. Fortunately, our national policy is to restore and preserve all forms of wildlife, including predators. Until the states get serious about balancing conservation vs. consumption, they should recuse themselves from decisions about endangered species.
- Ranchers throughout the West are learning how to live with wolves. Non-lethal tools -- guard dogs, strobe lights, electric fencing – can be more effective and sustainable than lethal tools – aerial gunning, hunting and trapping – in preventing wolf and livestock conflicts.
- There are plenty of programs – federal, state and private, to help ranchers reduce conflicts with wolves and other predators.
- Wolf restoration is far more likely to boost the economy and enhance the ecological diversity of Colorado rather than upend it.
- Wolves are important predators that contribute to the health of the ecosystems they inhabit. Predators like wolves tend to hunt and cull old, sick and injured deer, elk and other grazers. This keeps these prey populations healthy and enhances the health and diversity of the plants other wildlife need to thrive.
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