Reintroducing gray wolves into Colorado

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Grey wolf

It’s fresh off the press, grey wolves are to be reintroduced into Colorado. It was a narrow vote in favour. They’ll be introduced into the southern Rockies where there’s plenty of habitat. It seems that people are becoming more sensitive to the environment, to nature and wildlife. Perhaps this sentiment has been crystallised by the coronavirus pandemic combined with global warming. People are beginning to believe in global warming.

Grey wolf. Photo: Image by steve felberg from Pixabay.

It’s the first time that a US state has voted to reintroduce a wild animal. The project will be led by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department which will commence in 2020 or 2023. Wolves once thrived in the chosen area before being exterminated. There are millions of acres of suitable habitat in the southern Rocky Mountains. They believe that the area can support several hundred wolves.

As mentioned, the vote was close. When 90% of the votes were in there were 1,495,523 votes for the reintroduction versus 1,475,235 against. People living in urban areas support the project.

It is believed that it will restore Colorado’s natural balance, said Jonathan Proctor a conservationist. Trump, the outgoing president of the US, and his administration removed Endangered Species Act protections in late October. Wolves were taken off the US endangered species list controversially by Trump’s administration. Incidentally, I’m hopeful that the President-elect and his vice president will enhance animal welfare in the US and internationally because there are far more sensitive to wildlife and animal rights than Trump.

Of course, farmers and ranchers are worried because they believe that wolves will kill their livestock. This concern is replicated in the UK on a proposal to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx into England. It is believed that their concerns are unfounded. In Germany wolves have crossed over from the Netherlands without incident. It seems that wolves can live in harmony with people in a more congested world provided the projects are managed carefully and there is a degree of common sense involved.

It’s a novel approach, deciding on the reintroduction of wolves via the ballot box rather than the decision being made by administrators. Those against the reintroduction are against ballot box voting on these issues but personally I’m in favour of it. You have to gauge the attitude and feelings of the citizens who live in the area. They are the ultimate arbiters of what happens and state administrators need to be in touch with those sentiments. What better way of achieving that than a ballot? It gives validity to the project too. It makes it less controvesial and more likely to be accepted.

Advocates of the project refer to the successful reintroduction of wolves to the northern Rockies in the 1990s. Under that project only one in 10,000 cattle were killed on average. And there will be an initiative to compensate ranchers for lost livestock. Sport hunters who shoot elk are now worried that wolves will reduce elk numbers but this is not supported by records.

As mentioned, wolves were widespread in North America but humans hunted, trapped and poisoned them to near extinction under government-sponsored schemes. A small population was left in the Great Lakes region. They were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1970s. In 1995 and 1996, the federal government reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho. They spread to Montana, Oregon, Washington State and Northern California.