Wolves kill dog in Jackson County; second such kill in past month

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has confirmed another wolf kill in Jackson County, this time of a dog Sunday, Jan. 9.

About 7:30 a.m. that morning, CPW received a report of a dog carcass and another injured dog, both border collies, on a North Park ranch. A district wildlife manager responded and conducted a field investigation.

“The results of this investigation indicated wolf tracks in the immediate vicinity of the carcass and wounds on the dog carcass consistent with wolf depredation,” said Steamboat Springs Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf, through a spokesperson.

This is the second confirmed wolf kill in the past month, the first being a 500 pound heifer in December, also in Jackson County. Ranching advocates say conflicts between livestock and wolves are unavoidable and need to be planned for, especially as Colorado prepares to reintroduce wolves by the end of next year.

Wolves have been observed near Walden since 2019, when a wolf migrated down from a Wyoming pack. Another wolf was collared in North Park this spring, and those wolves have been seen with pups, making them the first breeding pair in Colorado in decades.

CPW Spokesperson Travis Duncan said in an email the dogs are working animals that were used for herding on the ranch. The rancher will be reimbursed for the loss of the dog using an existing state process to reimburse for animals killed by bears or mountain lions, Duncan said.

“Depredation compensation is required by statute, and the final Colorado compensation plan will be part of the overall gray wolf planning process,” Duncan said.

Two working groups are currently working to plan wolf reintroduction in Colorado, with recent meetings discussing how the compensation program would work. Members have heard presentations from other states about their reimbursement programs and have signaled how Colorado’s plan may look.

In November, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee reached an informal consensus that confirmed kills should be paid out at the full market rate for the animal, according to meeting minutes. If a kill was not confirmed but is probable, the group believes the rancher should be paid for at least half the animal’s market value.

In Wyoming, there is only compensation if the kill happened in the northwest part of the state, labeled a trophy game hunting zone. In Oregon, compensation is done on a county level and is limited to funds available.

But agriculture advocates like the Colorado Cattleman’s Association believe that indirect costs due to the presence of wolves — lower animal weights, decreased birth rates and increased land management costs — need to be considered, as well.

The stakeholder group has discussed this kind of compensation, noting that it could be tricky to quantify. The group has also discussed pay for habitat programs that could be a form of compensation for indirect losses and could help build support for wolves on the landscape.

Duncan noted that whatever the compensation program eventually looks like, it would not draw on revenues generated from hunting and fishing license sales. Instead, it would come from money that is meant for other nongame species.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission will meet virtually Wednesday, Jan. 12 to consider emergency rules that would allow ranchers to haze wolves away from livestock. If approved, the rules would go into affect right away.

“Our goal is to provide producers with resources to minimize the likelihood of conflict or depredation for these naturally migrating animals, as we work to create a statewide wolf restoration and management program that separately considers all aspects of management for future reintroduction efforts,” Duncan said.

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