Fear mongering, COVID-19 and gray wolves

On March 5, Greg Walcher, former executive director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, wrote an editorial opinion in the Grand Junction Sentinel stating that “Wolves are among the Earth’s primary carriers of coronavirus, the pandemic that is now sweeping the globe.”

Walcher’s misinterpretation of research and use of the COVID-19 outbreak to create fear around wolves is morally unethical and scientifically unsound. According to infectious disease and wolf expert Ellen E. Brandell, the canine coronavirus (an alphacoronavirus) that has been found in dogs and wolves is entirely unrelated to the current human COVID-19 (a betacoronavirus) outbreak.

Recently, I participated in a debate titled “Why are we voting on wolves in Colorado,” which refers to Initiative 107, which asks voters if they want gray wolves restored to Colorado, requires management by best science and requires that ranchers be compensated for confirmed livestock losses. My three opponents all pointed to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s commissioners who have repeatedly opposed gray wolf reintroduction, saying that this issue should be decided by the “experts” at CPW and not by Colorado’s voters. Their comments echo Greg Walcher, who stated, “It’s why wildlife is better suited to expert management than emotional ballot initiatives”.

My response: “We had to take the question of gray wolf reintroduction to the people with Initiative 107 because CPW’s Commission — part of the Department of Natural Resources under the direction of the likes of Greg Walcher — have continually made the decision to oppose wolf reintroduction based on politics instead of science.” The science is clear — wolf reintroduction can help restore a natural balance to Colorado and can be done in a manner that is respectful of the lives of all Coloradans. CPW’s commission decisions, regarding gray wolves, have been based in myth and promulgated by fear mongering. We deserve better.

Delia Malone