Malone: Wolf plan needs improvement
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has released its draft Wolf Restoration and Management Plan. While it holds some promise, the plan falls far short of Proposition 114’s mandate to base decisions on the “best scientific data available” or restore a “critical balance in nature.” However, there is still time for CPW’s commissioners to improve the plan before it’s finalized in May. Public comment will play a significant role.
CPW’s draft calls for wolves to lose state-protected status after only 150 individuals are present in the state for two consecutive years. Leading scientific studies show that a self-sustaining wolf population requires a minimum of 750 individuals.
Colorado has ample habitat and prey to support 750 wolves. Colorado boasts the largest elk herd in the world — about 286,000. Hunters in Colorado kill about 40,000 elk per year. Those 750 wolves would kill 9,000 elk per year — about 4 percent of the elk population after hunters have killed their fill. Wolves select the weak and diseased, improving herd health, while humans target elk in their prime.
Wolves can only be ecologically effective if their family groups are not disrupted by lethal management. But CPW’s draft allows for wolves to be killed on protected public lands. Under some circumstances, livestock owners and agency personnel would even be allowed to kill wolves based on vague guidelines for “chronic depredation” or even based on discrepancies between deer and elk populations and hunting-based herd objectives.
Scientific studies have shown that killing wolves does nothing to reduce livestock losses nor increase hunter success. Conversely, ample evidence informs that coexistence strategies prevent conflict between livestock and wolves.
CPW’s plan excludes any requirement for livestock owners to use protective measures when wolves are near cattle and sheep, instead placing the onus for coexistence on wolves. Yet livestock owners will be compensated for losses attributed to wolves without implementing even the most minimal incentives to deter predation.
We need a management plan that will foster a self-sustaining wolf population as mandated by Proposition 114 and enacted into law by the majority of Coloradans.
Delia G. Malone