Wolf working groups wrap up; Draft reintroduction plan expected in December

Final plan needs to be approved by the CPW Commission

Colorado Parks and Wildlife released this photo of the first gray wolf born and collared in Colorado on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
Eric Odell/Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Two advisory groups that have been helping Colorado Parks & Wildlife create a plan to reintroduce wolves in Colorado by the end of next year have wrapped up their work after 15 months.

This puts recommendations from each of those groups in the hands of state officials as they work to craft a draft of the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan, which will be presented to the CPW Commission in December.

“The deep discussions on the sometimes challenging issues surrounding wolf restoration will be critical in guiding the agency’s wolf restoration efforts,” said Heather Dugan, acting director of CPW, in a statement thanking members of the two working groups.

Forming the two groups — a technical working group made up of experts with previous experience in wolf management or reintroduction, and a stakeholder advisory group made up of a range of viewpoints from around the state — were some of the first steps taken toward reintroduction after voters narrowly approved bringing wolves back to Colorado in November 2020.

The ballot measure mandates that wolves be released on the landscape by the end of 2023, though relisting of the animal as endangered federally has required additional involvement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in crafting the plan.

The stakeholder group held its last meetings on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25, and is expected to present its final report to the CPW Commission in November.

This report should include the group’s comments on a variety of topics including nonlethal management, hazing techniques, compensation for livestock loss and regulated wolf hunting, among others.

The technical working group wrapped up a week earlier on Aug. 17. Its 90-page report is already available and builds on recommendations the group made in November 2021.

Those recommendations favored capturing wolves from another Northern Rocky Mountain state and quickly releasing them into areas of Colorado with broad expanses of public lands and low populations of humans and livestock.

A February report from the group also highlights the inevitable interactions with livestock that wolves will have and are already having, and how those instances should be investigated and compensated.

After a draft of the wolf management plan is submitted in December, there will be multiple public meetings that would allow for further comment. Ultimately, the plan needs approval from the CPW Commission.

The plan also needs signoff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. For CPW to have authority to reintroduce and manage wolves in Colorado, the state needs to get a federal 10(j) designation that would consider Colorado wolves an experimental population. Other populations, such as Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, are managed with the same type of designation.

Still, the agency says it is on track to meet deadlines outlined in the ballot measure requiring wolves be reintroduced by Dec. 31, 2023.

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