Community Agriculture Alliance: The moral in our wolf story |

Community Agriculture Alliance: The moral in our wolf story

Todd Hagenbuch
Community Agriculture Alliance
A black wolf photographed in the North Park area near Walden on Aug. 21, 2022.
Colorado Parks And Wildlife/Courtesy photo

Fables are used early in our lives to teach lessons to children in a way that is both entertaining and educational. There’s typically something or someone “bad” in the story, something or someone “good,” and a choice that needs to be made between the two. The story wraps up at the end with a lesson, or “the moral of the story.”

Wolves have played a role in several fables, including “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” In both of these fables, the wolf is big and bad, either a menace to the community flock or to humans themselves. The wolf literally and figuratively represents a threat, an evil-doer who is out to destroy.

In the past nine months, several articles have run in this paper about wolves and their devastating impact on a cattle herd in North Park. The ranchers who own the herd didn’t know that it would host the first reported wolf pack of the past 80 years and that their story of wolf interaction would serve as a modern-day story with lessons to be learned.

When Proposition 114 was passed by Colorado voters in 2020, it dictated that wolves be reintroduced to Colorado’s West Slope by the end of 2023. The movement of the pack into North Park brought matters to a head for area livestock owners sooner than December 2023 for sure, and those of us trying to figure out how our ranchers can protect their livestock have been a bit behind the eight-ball, so to speak.

Wolf advocates, who want to make sure wolf reintroduction goes as well as possible for both the wolves and the communities they will live in, were also caught a bit off-guard. The time to figure out how everything was going to work out was fast-forwarded two years.

Locally, CSU Extension hosted a workshop for livestock owners last February to learn what we could about how to protect animals from wolves. Soon after, Extension and the CSU Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence brought together wolf advocates, livestock owners and supporters, and educators to answer a simple question: What could we do, as a disparate group of concerned people, to help make sure wolf reintroduction in Colorado goes as well as possible, given all the challenges posed?

Out of that meeting was born an idea to bring wolf advocates to Routt County to see how ranchers live and work and hear first-hand what their concerns were. Two weeks ago, more than three dozen people from wolf advocacy groups and several local ranch families got together and had honest, meaningful conversations about people’s hopes, concerns and fears.

Most importantly, friendships between people of very different viewpoints were formed, and relationships were created that will help build a foundation from which more hard conversations can be had … and solutions can be figured out.

This week, CSU Extension educators and ranchers are in Montana learning from ranchers who have dealt with wolf interactions for years. We hope to learn more in an effort to help our producers prepare for what’s coming.

If we can prepare ourselves, perhaps our worst fears will be somewhat minimized. While a fairytale ending isn’t likely, there is a moral to the story nonetheless: Hard problems are better solved when both sides get together and build relationships to solve problems. That’s a moral many people in our world could learn right now.

Todd Hagenbuch is the ag and natural resources extension agent for the Routt County CSU Extension. For more,

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