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Colorado ranchers pushing back against movement to reintroduce wild wolves


Herders form new coalition to preserve their livelihoods

Image source: ColoWoolGrowers YouTube screenshot

Colorado ranchers have formed a coalition pushing back against initiatives to reintroduce wild wolves to the state, saying their livelihoods are threatened by the predators' return.

What are the details?

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project is working to restore a gray wolf population in Colorado, arguing that the eastern part of the state is the best habitat in the world for the endangered species. The issue could become a ballot measure, which has ignited arguments from both sides, according to The Daily Sentinel.

"The concerns expressed by the ranchers are what I've heard for a long time," Sierra Club representative and ecologist Delia Malone told the Sentinel. "If we examine the facts they don't support the concerns that ranchers have. Ranchers have been living and doing well with wolves on the landscape up in Canada and Montana and Idaho for many decades."

Fourth-generation Montana rancher Dean Peterson acknowledged to The New York Times that gray wolves were reintroduced to his state by a Clinton-era action that he said was shoved "down our throat with a plunger."

Last year, Oregon cattleman Todd Nash told VICE News he's lost around 100 head to wolves over the last seven years. The state reimburses ranchers for livestock losses from the predators, but Nash says the government's compensation doesn't cover his costs.

Nash told VICE, "I was the least bit concerned about wolves before they came here. It's different when it's your livestock being killed."

For that reason, Colorado ranching communities are uniting to counter proposals aimed at adding wolves to the existing list of threats to livestock, pets and humans.

"No different right now than the mountain lion, or the coyote, or the bear. We are already dealing with enough predators as it is," rancher Tim Ritschard told KCNC-TV.

The fear of ranchers is that their voices will be outweighed by urban voters who aren't financially impacted by predatory species, and would be more likely to side with those arguing that wolves could help restore ecosystems in rural areas.

Anything else?

Meanwhile, the wolf population is growing in nearby states, leading Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials to warn the public through KWGN-TV that killing a gray wolf can result in criminal charges, a year in prison and a fine as high as $100,000.

A common motto for dealing with wolves in the region is "SSS": shoot, shovel, shut-up.

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