Miller: Colorado wolf return ballot measure is misguided | VailDaily.com
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Miller: Colorado wolf return ballot measure is misguided

Another apex predator in Colorado could make our relationship with nature even more brittle

On the surface, there’s a certain romantic charm attached to this year’s Proposition 114, which would pave the way for the reintroduction of gray wolves to Colorado.

Reintroducing a lost species to part of its historic range sounds good from the perspective of making good on past wrongs. And the howl of a wolf is an eerie, primeval sound. If you hear it while out in the woods, you’ll never forget it.

But Proposition 114 is a bad idea in several ways.

First, Colorado’s easy-to-use ballot initiative process makes it far too easy to enact sweet-sounding, but unwise public policy. 

Voters in 1992 banned bear hunting in the spring. That isn’t the only, or even the primary, reason human-bear conflicts have increased over the years, but it hampers wildlife managers’ work.

And wildlife managers — as well as others who actually know about habitat and other issues — believe wolf reintroduction is a bad idea.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has several times opposed the idea. In addition, the department has this year confirmed the presence of the animals in Colorado’s northern mountains.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has also voiced its opposition to Proposition 114.

“Ballot box biology is reckless. In this particular case, it totally undermines the authority of Colorado’s wildlife professionals who have said time and time again over several decades that a forced wolf introduction is a bad idea,” Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO, said.

And, while Colorado is home to the largest elk herd in North America, the health of that herd isn’t assured.

In Eagle County, the elk population has declined by half or more since 2007. That’s mostly due to human population growth. But do we really want to introduce more apex predators to do further damage to those herds?

In addition to our animal neighbors, a number of our human neighbors are also concerned about the prospect of introducting more predators into the state.

Eagle County’s ranchers — along with ranchers throughout the state — are universally opposed to Proposition 114.

A January story in the Vail Daily introduced readers to Kip Gates, the great-great-grandson of one of the county’s first residents. Gates runs the family ranch on Derby Mesa in northwestern Eagle County, raising cattle and horses. The family ranch also hosts hunters in the fall willing to pay to hunt deer and elk on private land.

Gates in January said wolf reintroduction threatens every part of that operation.

In the same story, rancher Lloyd Gerard said the prospect of wolf reintroduction should worry the residents of the valley’s towns as much as local ranchers.

While mountain lions prey primarily on deer, rabbits and mice, the big cats have been known to take the occasional dog.

Gerard said wolves aren’t nearly as discriminating as their feline counterparts — this is true with domestic dogs and cats — and worries about increasing livestock and pet losses if voters approve bringing more wolves to Colorado.

The fact of the matter is our state isn’t nearly as wild as it once was. Even in our most remote areas, it’s relatively easy to find human fingerprints.

Bringing another large predator to the state will make our already-uneasy relationship with nature even more brittle.

Let wolves come on their own. They don’t need our help.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com


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