Friction Over Wolf Reintroduction Spills Into Colorado

November 21, 2013
By
The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to rule on the wolf proposals sometime after public hearings conclude Dec. 3

The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to rule on the wolf proposals after public hearings conclude

DENVER—Wildlife lovers clamoring to bring gray wolves to Colorado may want to pay attention to those wooden outhouse-style structures in rural Catron County, New Mexico.  They’re called “kid cages,” and they’re built to protect children waiting at school bus stops–from wolves.

“The wolf issue is an example, especially with the kid cages, about how you’re putting the interest of wildlife over the interests of human beings,” said filmmaker David Spady. “Every American should be concerned about seeing kids in cages and wolves out wandering around freely.”

Spady’s remarks came during a Tuesday screening of his film, “Wolves in Government Clothing,” a documentary on the impact of the 1998 wolf reintroduction on those living in the rural West.

The film focuses on rural communities struggling to cope with the economic and safety issues that accompanied the wolves, including livestock depredations, reduced elk and moose herds, and fewer hunting opportunities, not to mention chilling close encounters with wolf packs.

“There are certain predators that don’t mix well with populated areas, and most of the lower 48 is populated,” said Spady. “It’s not like the backwoods of Alaska or northern Canada. We’re populated.”

The screening, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity-Colorado and the Centennial Institute, coincided with a Fish and Wildlife Service public hearing on the wolves’ status at the Paramount Theater in Denver.

That was by design. Spady is holding screenings prior to five public hearings on the agency’s proposals to lift the endangered-species status of Canadian gray wolves in the Northern Rockies while increasing protections for the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.

From the perspective of species recovery, the Canadian gray wolf reintroduction has been a huge success. In 2012, wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains numbered 1,674 in at least 321 packs, far exceeding the agency’s goals.

Even so, the delisting proposal is meeting with furious opposition from environmental groups and wildlife advocates who fear the move will signal an open season on wolves.

At Tuesday night’s hearing, every one of the 100-plus speakers offering comments was staunchly opposed to removing the federal protections. Many of the speakers identified themselves as volunteers with the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, and more than a few wound up in tears.

“You guys, you, we entrusted you to take care of our beloved wildlife, lands and waters, to take care of this land, and you need to be the watchdog so the states don’t open it up to an open slaughter for these wolves,” said Betty Neuenschwander.

The wolves are already delisted in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where state wildlife officials are now in charge of managing the population and have allowed controlled hunting. About 90 wolves have migrated to Oregon and Washington, where they are still protected.

Many speakers said they were concerned that the delisting would slow or halt the migration of wolves to Colorado.

“Will I ever see a wolf in Colorado?” said seven-year-old McKenna Miers. “I oppose your plan because no one will ever see a wolf in Colorado and they will be extinct.”

Spady acknowledged that the wolf-reintroduction effort has taken on “this iconic sort of mystical status” among wildlife advocates.

“Most people that don’t deal with wolves, they grew up painting pictures of them as kids, and it’s more like a teddy bear than it is something that’s threatening,” said Spady. “It’s really people who are having to live with them that are having the issues.”

He pointed out that grizzly bears once roamed California—there’s even one on the state flag—but nobody in California is seriously calling for a grizzly reintroduction.

“California, where they once had grizzly bears everywhere, doesn’t have that animal in the state because they’re just impossible to manage in populated areas,” said Spady. “And they’re trying to force wolves in populated areas through these programs, and it’s just not working.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to rule on the wolf proposals sometime after public hearings conclude Dec. 3.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

19 Responses to Friction Over Wolf Reintroduction Spills Into Colorado

  1. D. Smith
    November 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Shoot– Shovel and Shutup!

    • Joe Herbert
      November 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Colorado is prime wolf habitat. The federal government manages about 55% of the land in the state, including 9.5 million acres of roadless areas. These are vast uninhabited areas where conflicts with people would be minimal. Furthermore, the state hosts an estimated 300,000 elk, or 30% of the nation’s total elk population. Wolves belong here in their historic range of Colorado as an iconic symbol of the Great American West, for our enjoyment, and for the enjoyment of future generations. Ranchers are also iconic symbols of the Great American West and deserve to be heard. But they tend to exaggerate the economic impact of wolves while ignoring the tremendous economic benefits that wolf tourism would bring to local communities and the state as a whole.

      • Andy Thornton
        February 4, 2014 at 8:51 am

        Enormous economic benefits? You’re kidding yourself. Just a small population of wolves decimates elk and deer herds. Look at Idaho, and Montana, where entire hunting economies have been gutted due to the reduction in elk. That brings large losses in real dollars that hunters laid down every year for decades for fuel, licenses, tags, groceries, meat processing etc. Hunting is the singe largest source of wildlife supporting revenue, and is almost 100% of state budgets for Biologists and poaching control.
        Bring in a couple hundred wolves, and the quality of hunting declines to the point where those dollars dry up. Buy you still only have a handful of sightings of wolves by “wolf tourists” who don’t buy tags or licenses, or pay butchers, or do anything but snap a few photos. It would never even come close to the amount of revenue lost from the deep pockets of hunters.
        Plenty of wild wolves roam northern Canada and Alaska. They are not endangered, and they belong in the wide open spaces of a huge and largely unpopulated Canada. There is no good reason to try to force them into our carefully managed game areas. If people are so passionate about seeing a wolf, or hearing one howl, spend about half the money a hunter would and go make a trip to northern Canada.
        Wolf tourism….gimme a break. How much “enormous economic benefit” from wolf tourism has montana or idaho harvested? Answer: ZERO. now add in their losses from reduced hunting economies.

      • Paul
        February 27, 2014 at 10:55 pm

        LOL, where do you live? How much money does hunting bring into the state? The wolves are non-native and larger than wolves that were in Colorado 100 years ago. What was the population in Colorado 100 years ago, what is the population now?

        Lol, lets see wolf packs wandering through evergreen and decimating elk calves on the golf course, peoples front yards!!! Blood and guts everywhere of a small calf elk? Guess what they won’t eat it either, just have their young hamstring and kill the calf. Maybe rip the guts out, but probably just crush the windpipe. Its just to teach the young.

        Economic benefits will be gained, your examples are Montana and Idaho. Those states are in an economic boom just bursting with wolf watchers!!!

        Its in the Details!! How are you going to watch wolves?

        1 You going to venture out in the woods with your kids? No gun just a dream that you’ll be ok? Where you going to go, close to their den. They will feel threatened, will you able to push off an attacking 100-150 lb. wolf?

        2 You going to follow elk herds as they are being pursued by a pack over miles before they catch a calf and hamstring it?

        I would like to know you plan for wolf watching and what other state have done?

        Delusional. Your probably wrote this sipping on an espresso at Starbucks?

        I just got back after skinning in the snow watching elk, deer, rabbits, one eagle and a fox.

        Iconic, what about the grizzly bear. What are your thoughts about bringing that back to Colorado? Lets have an Iconic remembering and bring back all the extinct animals through the ages??? Personally I would love to see a woolly mammoth running down Market street.

        Where do you live?

        • Josh
          August 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

          Wait… paul… do you really fear wildlife so much you take a gun with you on hikes into the woods? City slicker talking out his ass…

  2. November 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    If the folks in New Mexico really have to build kid cages against the wolves, it is time to have environmentalist bus guards at every stop… Then make sure they wear bacon scented predator deterrent.

  3. John
    November 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Even at 7 they brain wash them. Was going to go to Sacramento tomorrow but with none sense like this it’s kind of a waste of time.

  4. Bruce J Barker
    November 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Spady and the three comments prior to mine have the wolf issue all wrong. I see each of you still believing in “Little Red Ridding Hood” not progressing beyond childish thoughts. The child cages in New Mexico were build as a political statement against wolves in the landscape, not to protect children. You are who you are uneducated believers.

  5. Norm Mackey
    November 22, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Wolves do not become more dangerous because those wanting to promote the idea build kid cages, simply so that they can pretend such cages are necessary.

  6. Vixen*357
    November 23, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I love wildlife and nature, probably like/love more than people. That being said, wildlife means”wild.” This love affair that modern society has with animals that must survive on their own is foolish. I have coyotes and foxes trotting through my neighborhood. I RESPECT what they are and appreciate their beauty, but I DO NOT think they are fuzzy toys. They are WILD. As such they have instincts and motivations(hunger, feeding their young, territorial imperatives) that guide and direct them. Most of these drives are NOT compatible with populated areas. I have never seen a wild wolf, but if someone really wants to see them, then go to the “wilderness”, participate in a “wolf sing.” But leave the wild creatures to themselves. They deserve to be left alone, not be forced into a situation that causes them to be conflict. Ultimately they lose to the desire of man to control that which is within man’s territory. That means DEATH. I wish it were not so, but you have but to look at the wild elephants around the globe to see who the loser will be. If someone truly wants to protect wolves (save them), then leave them in their wild places.

  7. Paul
    November 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    As much as like the idea of Timber Wolves in all of their old range it just isn’t possible. Much of the range for Elk, Deer and Wolves is diminished even in Colorado. I also fear much more that simple fact that states like Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan haven’t figured out how to control this predator yet. Sure the states have limits, carrying capacity but they are doing a terrible job in estimates and harvesting them when numbers are too large. In the meanwhile people don’t want to control them the elk, deer and moose are at record lows in those states and the harest rates from r the hunters is proof enough that we still have a problem In controling this large predator.

  8. Lee Woiteshek
    November 28, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Wolves have destroyed the Yellowstone elk population. They have gone into other states as far west as Idaho and done extensive damage there. Keep them out of Colorado.

  9. david
    April 6, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    The science continually says you are wrong. Wolves and other predators make herds stronger, help make the environment better as a whole and kill a very small number of herds of domesticated animals. Domesticated dogs and hunters (in accidents) kill more people annually then wolves have in modern recorded history. A an American who has a right to decide what happens regarding my environment and its wildlife I can say that the wolves have more of a right to be back on and around Americas wild lands than do a few rural cowboys. If they did not and do not want to be dealing with wildlife they should move out of the country and back to the city. The many that ranch on my public lands should have to accept my predators living on those lands. Lastly – statistics worldwide show that ecotourists – those wanting photos…. bring more income in to various areas than does hunting….

  10. Dan
    May 3, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I live in a small mountain town in Alberta, Canada in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. The area around here has some of the highest densities of wolves in North America according to wildlife surveys. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing wolves twice in the past 15 years – once from a vehicle and once while in the bush. It was 500m away and the wolves immediately turned and ran. I hunt elk and deer and spend most weekends hiking with my kids. There has never been a wolf attack in Alberta’s recorded history. I’m actually more cautious about cougars than wolves.

    If we had no predators here, for sure we could have artificially higher deer and elk populations, but the wolves, deer and elk (and cougar and bear have lived together here for 10,000 years since the glaciers receded)

    I am pretty amazed by the anti wolf propoganda and how shrill the debate is in the US. There has been one wolf caused death in Canada in the last 300 years. Wolves could do fine in Colorado.

  11. dan
    May 18, 2014 at 7:00 am

    What the heck are those morons talking about? Wolves won’t be introduced to people’s backyards, they will be introduced to goddamn Rocky Mountains! It is almost impossible for a school kid to encounter a wolf near his home, pitbulls are far more bigger threat.

  12. Cody
    June 11, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    The stupidity and exaggeration by the anti wolf crowd is pretty funny to read.

    • Jackie
      June 25, 2014 at 10:45 am

      It’s well known that wolves strengthen the ecosystem in which they inhabit, that includes the elk herds. For some reason, the anti-wolf crowd equates the wolf to government, and they can’t see the forest for the trees.

      Lol, ripping the guts out of elk calves? Please.

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