A pack of issues regarding wolf restoration

Column by Ron Hellbusch
Posted 2/11/20

In January, the Secretary of State confirmed there were enough signatures on petitions calling for a public referendum on “restoration of gray wolves” in Colorado. This issue has taken wings …

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A pack of issues regarding wolf restoration

Posted

In January, the Secretary of State confirmed there were enough signatures on petitions calling for a public referendum on “restoration of gray wolves” in Colorado. This issue has taken wings often over that last 50 years either by wolf reintroduction supporters seeking endorsement and support from the state wildlife professionals or (as in this year’s efforts) direct voter referendum petition for a ballot box vote.

The process consistently attracts controversy from the various corners of our state. The decision will ultimately become more complex as special interest groups enter the process. We outside the circle should take interest and follow the process in the interest of our state.

Let’s hope the process seriously considers the variety of factors and specific conditions that exist in Colorado Today. The big reality is we are living in the 21st century, with a significant difference in human population and in some cases, a diminishing population of deer and elk game prey, that wolf packs consume as prey. Let me offer some issues to consider, some “food for thought” that are important to consider in the reintroduction study process.

We need to be knowledgeable of wildlife populations in today’s 21st century as compared to the mid-1890s and 1900s; tabulate the vast raw back country open land and the more marginal big game herds of the early years. Look closely at our state’s current expanding human mountain population and distribution.

Consider the change in land use and shrinking open remote back country lands as compared to 100 years ago.

Study how other growing wolf populated states such as Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are dealing with this restoration issue; be aware of the successes and/or failures of their efforts of restoration balance of these issues in a changing environment, as well as population of wild game herds over a century in a changing environment. Look at the changing popularity of big game hunting and public wildlife observation programs, as an economic issue in Colorado.

Consider the major impact that livestock growers face from this predator and likely changing reintroduction impact on mountain communities today. Today’s lesser open range suggest possible new conflicts of livestock and wildlife.

The one single most significant factor in this uncertain wild game predator/prey question is to build in flexibility in how to control wolf pack “populations.” Wolf populations will surely expand, likely in a significant way and impact the populations of the elk and deer prey wildlife numbers. Reintroduction without population controls will result in serious problems as time moves forward.

This issue is not just a wildlife issue, it is an economic issue, a wildlife observer issue and a matter of committing to controlling a balance of the wildlife species. Too often, once an absent wildlife specie is reintroduced there is no control nor commitment on the population and expansion and that can result in the loss of the prey specie.

The wolf reintroduction question warrants a watchful eye on how these other factors are identified and considered in the coming process.

Outdoorsman and Westminster resident Ron Hellbusch can be reached at Ron-Hellbusch Comcast.net

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