Monthly Archives: May 2005

Why have wolves in Colo.?

Top 10 unofficial reasons for reintroduction

by Gary Wockner
Fort Collins

Denver Post

We’ve finally done it: The 14 members of the Colorado Wolf Working Group agreed, and on May 5, the Wildlife Commission concurred: Wolves can migrate into Colorado and roam freely.

Now that the serious work is over, it’s time to have some fun.

As one of the four wildlife advocates on the working group, it is also my distinct pleasure to announce that we advocates have negotiated a deal with 20 national environmental groups to purchase the first shipment of 400 Canadian wolves that will be delivered to Colorado on June 15.

Hey, relax – it’s a joke! It’s actually only 40 wolves, and they’ve all been genetically modified to only eat grass and three-legged sheep that wouldn’t survive anyway.

OK, that’s another joke.

It’s actually not 40 wolves, but 10 lawsuits which will strip every private landowner in Colorado of all property rights, thereby making way for wolves and the formal “rewilding” of the state.

Yes, that’s just another joke, but really, everyone takes this wolf thing so seriously. The fact is that the year-long process of the Wolf Working Group was both a mixture of seriousness and humor.

The 14 of us – ranchers, biologists, county commissioners, hunters and wildlife advocates – ate together, stayed in lodges together, and drank beer together. Throughout, we got to know each other well, which provided for lots of laughs as well as mutual understanding.

It was a very worthwhile process, and now Colorado has a Migratory Wolf Management Plan. But, unfortunately (from my viewpoint), Colorado still has no wolves.

Scientific opinion is mixed on how long it will take wolf packs to migrate into and/or establish themselves in Colorado. Guesses vary from six months to 10 years. Many of us in the working group, however, would like to hasten this process by reconvening to create a Wolf Recovery Plan for Colorado.

The underlying reasons for having wolves in Colorado are the usual – “the ecological health of the land,” “the health of ungulate herds,” “the tourism boost,” “the aesthetic beauty of wolves” and “the wildness and hope that wolves will bring to the Colorado landscape.”

But there are other reasons that are a lot more fun.

So, here we go, the top 10 reasons why the Colorado Wildlife Commission should reconvene the Wolf Working Group to create a recovery plan that reintroduces wolves to Colorado.

No. 10: Elk and deer need the exercise, and wolves are cheaper than Jane Fonda workout videos.

No. 9: Because wolves are incestual and polygamous, they’ll give social conservatives something else to focus on other than the gay marriage ban.

No. 8: Wolves don’t just eat elk, deer, and livestock, they eat real-estate developers, too.

No. 7: Now that Hunter S. Thompson is dead, the ecological niche for wolves in Colorado is wide open.

No. 6: Boulder’s biotech engineers are salivating at the opportunity to create a genetically modified sheep that grows porcupine quills rather than wool.

No. 5: With 1,000 wolves in Colorado, the radio-collar business will explode and create the state’s next dot-com-like economic expansion.

No. 4: Now that Warren Zevon is dead, people in Boulder no longer have anything to howl about. (Hint: He wrote the song “Werewolves of London.”)

No. 3: We can train wolves to help patrol Colorado’s borders and thereby enforce Tom Tancredo’s anti-immigration agenda.

No. 2: Without wolves, Colorado ranchers will have to find some other way to get their hackles up.

And, the No. 1 reason to reintroduce wolves into Colorado: George Bush thinks wolves are terrorists, and so if Colorado has wolves, the state will get a lot more funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Now seriously, the Wolf Working Group created a strange sort of camaraderie that almost no one predicted.

In my travels around the state talking with environmentalists, hunters and ranchers, I’ve seen a curious kind of hope come out of this – a hope that this age-old conflict could be settled without acrimony, lawsuits or cow-pie slinging.

So please order us to reconvene the Wolf Working Group and create a recovery plan for wolves in Colorado. If we can do this, it’ll make next year’s grizzly bear recovery program all that much easier.

Gary Wockner is a writer and ecologist in Fort Collins, and a member of Sinapu’s Borad of Directors.


Ranchers howl in protest of wolf management plan


The Daily Sentinel

AVON — Jean Stetson already has felt the rake of a wolf’s claws, and the predator officially isn’t even in Colorado.

Stetson, a third-generation rancher from Craig, was one of four livestock producers on the 13-person Wolf Management Working Group that painstakingly hammered out a wolf management plan adopted unanimously Thursday by the Colorado Wildlife Commission.

The panel was composed of ranchers, sportsmen and conservation groups, and Stetson said the group’s decision to allow migrating wolves to come into the state brought howls of protest from the ranching community, some of whom clawed at Stetson and accused her of selling out by signing off on the group decision.

“There are a lot of unhappy people who feel they’re caught in a Catch 22,” Stetson said Thursday. “They thought (with this plan) they could protect their livestock and their livelihood, but now we’re at the mercy of the judges and the (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service.”

The state plan allows wolves to migrate into Colorado without being harassed. However, once a wolf gets into trouble, including killing livestock, a quick response is urged. That might not be possible, ranchers fear, in the light of an Oregon judge’s recent decision to return the wolves to endangered status.

Ed Bangs, wolf program coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont., said the government agency doesn’t hesitate to kill any wolf caught killing livestock.

The plan also seeks a compensation program for ranchers for losses. The compensation must come from funds other than the DOW’s game-cash fund or from license fees.

However, the plan left unanswered what to do about wolves entering the state in packs or the even more sensitive matter of whether Colorado should reintroduce wolves.

Just having a plan is a major step forward in dealing with an endangered species, said Division of Wildlife Director Bruce McCloskey.

“I don’t know if you realize the significance of the vote you just took,” said McCloskey after the commission voted 8-0 for the plan. “It’s a pretty remarkable difference between (Colorado) and other Western states.”

The news was welcome by several conservation groups.

“This decision is remarkable, and it cracks the door for wolves that might wander into the state on their own,” said Rob Edward of Sinapu, also a member of the working group.

What has ranchers riled was the recent ruling in Oregon that said the Service erred in dividing wolves into regional subpopulations and unilaterally deciding that wolves were threatened, not endangered. The judge’s ruling re-established the wolfs’ endangered listing, making it near-impossible for a rancher to protect his livestock from a predating wolf.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has said it will develop some unspecified permit process to allow Colorado to manage wolves, including some take of predating wolves, but McCloskey was skeptical.

“I’d better see that in black and white before I say anything,” he said.

But even allowing a single wolf to enter the state is a bad choice, Stetson said.

“There’s one faction in the state that wants wolves here now,” she said. “We have another faction that says, “Hell no, I’ll shoot everyone I see.”

Although the DOW receives several unverified reports of wolf sightings every year, the only confirmed sighting in 60 years occurred last summer when a female wolf from a pack in Yellowstone National Park was killed on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs.

That puts pressure on the state to be ready to deal with migrating wolves, said working group member Dyanne Singler of the National Wildlife Federation.

“I’m proud of the ranchers, hunters and other conservationists on this group,” Singler said. “Now, this group needs to press on with developing a recovery plan for wolves in Colorado.”

McCloskey said finding money to fund the wolf plan, including keeping the working group together, will be a challenge.

“It’s going to be tough in these days of tight budgets,” McCloskey said. “But it would be good to have something set aside.”

Houndsmen Quash their Own Bobcat-Hunting Proposal

For Immediate Release

Avon, CO. Reacting to opposition by Sinapu and The Colorado Wildlife Alliance, today the United Houndsmen of Colorado pulled their request to open up the bobcat-hunting season by approximately two weeks.

Sinapu and The Colorado Wildlife Alliance warned the Commission that the Hounsdmen’s proposal and the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s recommendation to open up the season would cause unintended consequences for lynx, potentially hurt bobcat populations, and set a poor precedent for public processes.

At the March 10 hearing of the Wildlife Commission,the United Houndsmen requested that the bobcat-hunting season open simultaneously with the mountain lion season.

“On the same day that the Wildlife Commission adopted a new policy for citizens who bring petitions to the Commission, they immediately bent their own rule and allowed the Houndsmen’s request to move forward without so much as a petition to the Wildlife Commission,” said Dave Jones, President of The Colorado Wildlife Alliance.”

Sinapu in its April 27th letter and in testimony today, requested that the state take steps to protect lynx from the threat of houndsmen and their dogs. Under agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state must ensure that no more than 2 lynx are accidentally killed by bobcat hunters each year, but the effects from lion hunters were never evaluated.

“We still have significant concerns about lynx protections,” said Rob Edward, Director for Sinapu’s Carnivore Restoration Program. “We want the Division of Wildlife to institute measures to ensure that lynx will not be accidentally killed by mountain lion hunters.”

Bobcat pelt prices are at a historic high, commanding over $400 for a top-quality pelt. Forty years of data show that high prices accelerate bobcat hunting and trapping. Yet, the state allows unlimited hunting of bobcats. In 1975, bobcats were listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) because they were so severally trapped out of their range in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“We asked the Commission to limit the total number of bobcats that can be killed each year because there’s historic precedent for overkill,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring. “Right now the state is not moving towards bobcat management using the best available science,” she added. “It’s more like close your eyes and hope for the best. Even though the Houndsmen pulled their request, we think the state should address how it’s managing bobcats.”


Conservationists Hail Commission Ruling for Wolves; Decision called a “good first step”

For Immediate Release

For More Information Contact:
Rob Edward * Sinapu * 303.817.4482
Mark Pearson *San Juan Citizens Alliance * 970.946.9498
Dyanne Singler * National Wildlife Federation * 720.320.6258 Cell

Avon, CO. Sinapu, the National Wildlife Federation and the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance today hailed as an incremental victory a unanimous decision by the Colorado Wildlife Commission to allow wolves to roam Colorado freely. The decision comes in response to the recommendations of a diverse “working group” of citizens that included ranchers, hunters, conservationists and biologists.

“This decision is remarkable, and it cracks the door for wolves that might wander into the state on their own” said Rob Edward of Sinapu. Although clearly enthusiastic about the decision, Edward cautioned that much more remains to be done to ensure that wolves again roam Colorado’s high country in meaningful numbers. “We’ve cracked the door,” said Edward, “but we must open it wide to ensure that we’ve met our obligation as stewards.”

“I’m proud of the ranchers, hunters and other conservationists on this group,” said Dyanne Singler of the National Wildlife Federation, who along with Edward served as part of the working group. “Now, this group needs to press-on with developing a recovery plan for wolves in Colorado.”

Singler and Edward both emphasized the fact that the working group recommendations were reached by full consensus, and that such a hard-earned consensus reflects the power of the group to tackle the thorny issue of wolf reintroduction. “This is how endangered species stewardship should look,” said Singler.

Gary Wockner, a wildlife ecologist and conservationist on the Group, said, “It has been an extraordinary pleasure to help Colorado address this issue with a collaborative approach. I, and the other conservationists, stand ready to continue collaborating as Colorado takes the next step towards wolf recovery.”

Through their actions, the Colorado Wildlife Commission transformed the working group recommendations into an official management plan that will guide state wildlife policy. In addition to allowing wolves to roam Colorado freely, the plan mandates that wolves that prey on livestock be dealt with incrementally, and that ranchers be fairly compensated for their losses.

Mark Pearson of the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance and also a member of the working group noted that scientific evidence suggests that wolves will need to be reintroduced to ensure their sustained presence in the state. “Science tells us there’s plenty of excellent habitat for wolves in Colorado,” said Pearson. “The Colorado Division of Wildlife should now empower this group to ensure that all of that great habitat plays host to wolves.”

The Division of Wildlife has yet to make a definitive decision regarding reengaging the working group to explore reintroduction.