Colorado’s management of wolves could mirror Wyoming’s in some ways, if a pending bill passes the Colorado Legislature; however, that probably won’t include wolf hunting.
At least not anytime soon, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation told Cowboy State Daily.
“Eventually, when wolves are recovered (in Colorado), we would like to have the ability to hunt those wolves. But that’s a long way off, if ever,” said Ryan Bronson, RMEF spokesman.
RMEF, a conservation and hunting advocacy group, threw its weight behind Colorado’s Senate Bill 23-256, which aims to establish more direct state control over wolves and could delay the reintroduction there.
Trump Changed Wolf Policy, Judge Changed It Back
As things stand, the wolves already in Colorado, plus any that may be reintroduced, remain under full federal endangered species protection, Bronson said.
Colorado’s wolf reintroduction program was initiated by Proposition 114, which barely squeaked by Colorado voters in 2020 by a margin of 50.91% to 49.09%.
At the time, wolves had been delisted nationwide by then President Donald Trump, Bronson said.
“When Proposition 114 passed, the Trump administration had delisted wolves. When it passed, everybody thought the state would have full control over the wolf reintroduction,” he said. “But later, a federal judge reinstated the endangered species protection everywhere except in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.”
Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone Park in the mid-1990s, and spread from there into Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The Greater Yellowstone wolves were eventually delisted and management of them was handed over to the states.
The same should happen in Colorado, Bronson said.
“We opposed Proposition 114 when it was a ballot measure. But the ballot measure passed and now it’s a state law, so that’s in the past,” he said. “Now, we want wolves managed by the state.”
Bill Would Delay Reintroduction, Clear Way For Lethal Measures
SB 23-256 has passed both the Colorado House and Senate. Bronson said if it’s signed into law, it will designate Colorado wolves as an “experimental and non-essential population” under the Endangered Species Act.
Under the bill, reintroduction of wolves to Colorado, set to start by the end of this year, would be delayed until that ESA status was established.
“This isn’t trying to start over, this is just clarifying the sequencing of establishing non-essential status, and then starting the reintroductions,” Bronson said.
That, in turn, would give Colorado, not federal agencies, direct control of wolves there, he said. That would give Colorado game agents more leeway to kill wolves that attacked livestock, for example.
Colorado’s North Park wolf pack — which was established by wolves that migrated from Wyoming — has already killed several livestock animals and dogs.
Wolves Might Not Be Available Anyway
The plan is to reintroduce 30-50 more wolves to Colorado over the next three to five years. But the program might have hit a huge snag before it’s even started: Colorado has yet to find another state willing to give them wolves.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he flatly refuses to provide any Wyoming wolves for Colorado’s program. And it was reported that Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington also may refuse.
Mark Heinz can be reached at Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com