Time to clothe the wolf in regulatory clothing

Column by Ron Hellbusch
Posted 12/10/20

The Colorado Gray Wolf reintroduction initiative legislation passed on the narrowest of margins. The Colorado population who closely follows and understands wildlife management issues understood the …

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Time to clothe the wolf in regulatory clothing

Posted

The Colorado Gray Wolf reintroduction initiative legislation passed on the narrowest of margins. The Colorado population who closely follows and understands wildlife management issues understood the opposition of the Parks and Wildlife Commission and other professional wildlife interests and individuals to the controversial gray wolf reintroduction plan.

The impact on the state’s valuable elk and deer herd populations can be significant. Additionally, there are key economic factors for Colorado that were not represented at the table. The agricultural interests of the sheep and cattle industry have rightfully been well considered in the drafting of the legislation. But wildlife did not have sufficient voices and those wildlife concerns are critical to the overall failure or success of this issue.

Let us look at Colorado’s wildlife populations and what that means to our state.

Colorado has proudly enjoyed having the nation’s largest population of elk and that claim has drawn substantial economic benefit during the annual big game seasons. Ask any sports shop owner, lodging service and restaurant operator, hunting guide service, or fuel dispenser, not to mention the State itself, in terms of the flow of dollars into Colorado each hunting season.

The missing link in just simply introducing a predator mammal into Colorado with no consideration for the growth of the specie or control over the growth in numbers that will naturally occur is significant. One can simply look at Montana or Idaho as examples where wolf packs have expanded significantly over the years and the impacts of those uncontrolled expanding packs have had on elk and deer populations.

The missing element in this legislation is simply the absence of an early conditional plan to determine and know the numbers of wolves and to control the numbers of wolves in specific locations where they are making a negative impact on the states elk and deer populations. That is not unreasonable. Parks and Wildlife Division monitors almost all other wildlife. That includes elk, deer, antelope, rabbits, etc. plus many bird and waterfowl species. When the wildlife number is in excess of the habitat or the growing wildlife populations are overly consuming habitat or pray steps are taken to adjust predator populations. Managed wildlife is often transplanted out of an overly consuming region. For those on the big and small game hunting list, the bag limit will be adjusted or limited to assure there is a safe and healthy pray populations.

If the state can control the population of elk, deer, rabbits, pheasants or waterfowl should not they control the population of a highly consuming predator such as a wolf? Emotion and politics need to be put aside and the Division of Parks and Wildlife should be supported in immediately establishing a plan that manages the wolf population along with other state wildlife to assure healthy big and small game populations and that includes managing wolf populations as we manage all other wildlife.

That wildlife management plan with inclusion of the changing Gray Wolf population numbers needs to be in place before the first pack of gray wolves are introduced into Colorado.

Outdoorsman and Westminster resident Ron Hellbusch can be reached at Ron-Hellbusch Comcast.net

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