Keystone Policy Center, Parks and Wildlife give updates on wolf reintroduction
Wolf reintroduction is expected to begin by the end of 2023, and organizers of the reintroduction are moving closer to their goal.
Julie Shapiro, natural resources director at Keystone Policy Center, said that the various working groups, which are involved in public outreach and deliberation of potential options for plans, have made significant progress. Keystone Policy Center has been tasked with being the third-party facilitator for stakeholders.
She said that a lot of recent conversation has surrounded interactions with livestock, wildlife and other species. This included scenarios such as if a wolf has been caught in the act of chasing, wounding or killing livestock or working dogs.
“In discussing different scenarios, the (stakeholder advisory group) was discussing a range of management options including education, non-lethal management and lethal (measures) by state and federal agents, and/or producers or their agents or citizens — all dependent on the scenario,” Shapiro said.
Reid DeWalt, assistant director for aquatic, terrestrial and natural resources at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said that one option that various groups have discussed is a phased approach from moving wolves from endangered in the state to delisting them based on population. This would be based on midwinter counts, and DeWalt said this would allow for increased management flexibility as population grows.
“The idea behind the phased approach is that it’s more conservative when the population is smaller and more conservative in protected management, and then as the population grows, then we can actually increase our maximum management flexibility and trying to ensure that we’re not being too aggressive when the population is small,” DeWalt said. “That’s the importance of the phases.”
Phase 1 is for times where the wolf population is below 50. Colorado will stay in Phase 1 for four years, and when the state goes above a wolf population of 50, it will move into Phase 2. In Phase 2, wolf populations would increase from 50 to a minimum count of 150 for two successive years, or a minimum count of 200 with no time requirement. At that point, gray wolves would be delisted. The first two phases may be met concurrently. During Phase 3, wolves would be given non-game status or as a game species.
“Determination of whether to move to game classification should include consideration of social input regarding acceptability of wolf harvest and means of take, demand for population size management, livestock conflicts, impacts on other wildlife populations, other impacts from conflict and/or demand for harvest opportunity,” DeWalt added.
Current plans have wolves being placed on the Western Slope, but Eric Odell, a species conservation program manager with Parks and Wildlife, said that they expect that some wolves will move east. Currently, there have not been specified release locations that have been made public. Last winter, an animal that resembled a wolf was spotted in Leadville.
Approval will be a two-step process for Parks and Wildlife commissioners, with a final plan being released in April 2023 and the vote happening in May 2023.
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