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50 northern gray wolves to be released in Colorado over 5 years, according to draft plan

Social, political issues will be harder to manage than animals as wolf recovery rolls out on the Western Slope starting in 2024

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
In this aerial file photo provided by the National Park Service is the Junction Butte wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., on March 21, 2019. Colorado Parks and Wildlife dropped its 293-page draft plan for wolf reintroduction on Friday morning, which calls for transferring 30 to 50 gray wolves from northern Rockies states over three to five years beginning in 2024.
National Park Service via AP

A little more than two years after Colorado voters narrowly directed Colorado Parks and Wildlife to reintroduce wolves to the Western Slope, the agency has a plan. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife dropped its 293-page draft plan for wolf reintroduction on Friday morning, launching a public process to adjust details before a final plan is proposed in February next year and approved in May. The plan calls for transferring 30 to 50 gray wolves from northern Rockies states over three to five years beginning in 2024. 

The comprehensive plan was honed through 47 public in-person and virtual meetings involving 3,400 state residents in the summer of 2021. A 20-member Stakeholder Advisory Group met 15 times between June 2021 and August 2022. A 17-member Technical Working Group composed of wildlife experts and local community leaders met 14 times in that span.



The essence of the plan is “impact-based management” of wolves, with CPW given “maximum flexibility.” So conflicts between wolves and domestic livestock or wild deer, elk and moose will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The agency will first use education to minimize impacts, the nonlethal strategies followed by lethal responses and compensation for ranchers who lose livestock to the predators. (The draft plan proposes ranchers get up to $8,000 for every animal killed by a wolf.)

“An impact based approach recognizes that there are both positive and negative aspects of having wolves and managing wolves,” said Eric Odell, CPW’s species conservation program manager, during a meeting with commissioners on Friday.

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A top issue for wolf conservation in Colorado, per the plan, is “social tolerance for wolves and economic impacts.”

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