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Colorado discusses possibility of wolf reintroduction

Gray Wolf

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Gray wolves continue to be a hot topic in the West. Reintroduction efforts are already underway in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona and Colorado could be next. Earlier this week, about 200 people met to discuss the possibility of reintroducing the apex predators to the state, raising concerns “about disease, livestock losses and diminished big-game hunting,” the Montrose Daily Press reports.

While there isn’t an official state-endorsed reintroduction effort, wolves are in the state. In fact, according to Renzo DelPiccolo, who is an area wildlife manager for Colorado, Parks and Wildlife (CPW), there have been “three confirmed sightings of gray wolves in Colorado in the past 15 years” and several hybrid wolves. Wolves also don’t observe state boundaries and neighboring wolf populations could easily move into Colorado; however, according to Mike Phillips, a biologist who works with the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, “it would take about 250 wolves to establish a viable population,” which is why a formal reintroduction would be necessary.

“It won’t be successful through natural migration,” said Phillips.

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That doesn’t mean residents want them there.

“There will be 8 million people in Colorado by 2040, and if you bring wolves here it’s going to be a conflict right way, and that’s not fair to the wolves,” said Denny Behrens, a member of the organization BigGame Forever, said during the meeting.

Wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act in Colorado, making it illegal to kill them. In 2016, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission signed a resolution in 2016 that “opposes the ‘intentional release of any wolves into Colorado,’” according to the Montrose Daily Press.

“But if wolves make it down here from Wyoming or up from New Mexico or Arizona, they will be treated as an endangered species in the state,” said CPW spokesman Joe Lewandowski.  

As of now, there’s no pending legislation suggesting that a reintroduction effort is underway, but legislators could address the subject over the next few months. Stay tuned to goHUNT for further updates.


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Eric Y. - posted 1 year ago on 03-04-2019 10:30:39 pm

In his presentation to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon sportsmen, guides & outfitters, media and politicians, Jim Beers shared how he worked his way up through the ranks. And while working with the Pittman-Robertson funds, he was also appointed to work with U.S. Trade Representative groups and the State Department to address a European Union ban on furs taken with leg hold traps in the U.S. and Russia.

Beers has always considered himself a wildlife manager, holding a Bachelors Degree in Wildlife Resources. He sees the use of leg hold traps as an effective tool for managing furbearers, such as raccoons, foxes, coyotes and mink. And made an all out effort to get the European ban removed from U.S. furs. And thanks largely to his efforts, it was.

He says that he was fully aware of USFWS regularly meeting with “environmental” and “animal rights” groups in secrecy, and entering into under the table agreements with them. After the defeat of the efforts to outlaw the use of leg hold traps in the U.S., he noticed a very different attitude toward him. Beers feels that the outcome was not what USFWS may have agreed to with groups pushing for the elimination of leg hold traps in this country.

Later in the 1990s, while working with the distribution of sportsmen provided excise taxes, he began to question why the amount of Pittman-Robertson funds being distributed to state wildlife agencies had failed to increase over a several year period. This was during the Clinton administration, and a fear that the administration would make it increasingly difficult to buy firearms and ammunition resulted in frenzy buying and stockpiling. With such record sales, Beers rationalized that there should be a parallel increase in the amount of excise taxes collected - but he was not seeing that trend in the amount he had to distribute. His probing of this issue must have hit a nerve or two with upper USFWS management, and he suddenly found himself put on administrative leave, and told to “Go Fishing...With Pay!”

He was also threatened, and told not to discuss the issue with anyone, or he could lose his job and health benefits. However, while Beers was not officially “on the job”, co-workers handling the distribution of Pittman-Robertson monies often asked him to take a look at this or that, and for advice. While stepping into the office to “visit” on one opportunity, one of those co-workers asked him to look over a massive print out of the expenditures made with Pittman-Robertson funds, and Jim was surprised to find numerous uses of the taxes collected to fund non-hunting and non-fishing related projects. Those discrepancies included funding for wildlife management lands used for the building of a prison, to fund park improvements, and for purchasing USFWS vehicles. None of which qualify for funding under the Pittman-Robertson Act.

So, what does all of this have to do with wolves? Read on.

Beers blew the whistle on the misappropriation of monies that were supposed to be used exclusively for wildlife habitat and fisheries improvement. And Congress launched an official inquiry.

What they discovered was that USFWS had embezzled as much as $60- to $70-million from the excise taxes collected on sportsman purchases of guns, ammo and fishing tackle. According to Beers, when USFWS Director Jamie Rappaport Clark was questioned about the unauthorized use of these monies, her comment was something to the effect of, “I was told the money was to be used where I felt it was needed.”

So, where did USFWS use “your” tax dollars...the money that was supposed to be for funding projects that insure the health of the wildlife and fish resources sportsmen have worked so hard to build? According to Jim Beers, one use was to fund the introduction of those Canadian wolves into the Northern Rockies. That’s right, they used “your” money to fund dumping wolves into one of the richest wildlife areas of North America - unleashing the wildlife equivalent of cancer to destroy the past hundred years of sound wildlife conservation efforts (at the cost of hundreds of millions of sportsman dollars). And those wolves are now at out-of-control numbers, and they are dealing a death blow to elk, moose, deer and other big game populations in many areas of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Beers says another use of “your” excise tax dollars was to construct a new Regional USFWS Office in California.

Congress had already turned down funding for both these projects - so USFWS took it upon themselves to dip deeply into Pittman-Robertson funds to finance these projects...without any authorization whatsoever. And if these two misappropriations of funds is not enough of a slap in the face to the sportsmen who provided those monies, USFWS also used “your” money to establish a “slush fund” to provide bonuses for Director Clark, division chiefs, and managers at federal and regional levels. And they rewarded themselves well. Those who had excelled at their jobs generally received $25,000 to $30,000. But even those who only mustered a mediocre rating in how they performed their responsibilities usually received a bonus of around $5,000. What the heck, it was free why not?

(I followed all of this back in the late 1990s, and I remember that some of the Pittman-Robertson monies that were wrongfully taken from hunters and fishermen were even used to reimburse USFWS employees for relocation expenses. T.B.)

So, what did Jim Beers receive for being so honest and forthright? How about a forced retirement, and once again the threat of losing benefits if he kept the spotlight on this issue. In fact, he was offered a payoff to keep quiet about it for three years. He took the money. Still, he kept researching elements of the Wolf Recovery Project that were handled improperly. Following are some issues which he says are in violation of the law:

*Unauthorized taking of Pittman-Robertson funds to finance projects (and bonuses) that did not qualify.

*That Wolf Recovery Project coordinator Ed Bangs failed to file an appropriate and accurate Environmental Impact Statement. Beers says Bangs purposely ignored all established wolf science and research, dismissing known wolf depredation impact to wildlife & livestock, and he ignored the dangers of the parasites and diseases carried which are a threat to other wildlife, livestock, pets and to humans (Beers claims that wolves carry 30 known parasites & diseases - most of which are a danger to humans). He says Ed Bangs ignored published historic record of wolf impact and health/safety issues.

*Ed Bangs failed to file Form 3-177, which is required for importation of any wildlife or fish species, including wolves. The form requires declaration of the number being brought into the country, and the species/subspecies being brought into the country. Beers says there is no record of the mandatory form ever being filed.

*That for USFWS to go ahead and “find funding elsewhere” for constructing the California Regional Office, and to fund the introduction of wolves even after the projects had been turned down by Congress is a violation of the agency’s authority.

*That USFWS wrongfully supplemented federal funds with private money to introduce wolves. (Even if approved by Congress, federal budgets cannot by supplemented with private contributions from companies or organizations - or with monies misappropriated from other federal project funds.)

*Beers also claims that for USFWS to allow Defenders of Wildlife to reimburse livestock producers for the loss of stock to wolves, but for them not to reimburse for the loss of wildlife or not to reimburse for the loss of a pet or not to reimburse for losses/injury to humans caused by wolves violates the equal treatment outlined by the Constitution.

While as much as $70-million dollars was robbed from Pittman-Robertson funds, and used to fund non Congress approved projects, very little (nothing) was done to investigate this crime - or exactly where all of that money went. USFWS was, at that time, pushing a non-hunting agenda (and still does today). Likewise, so were most all state wildlife agencies. Beers feels that much of the missing millions ended up funding bird watching areas, hiking trails and like projects in many states - even though the money had been collected from hunting and fishing gear sales, and was supposed to go right back into game and fisheries habitat improvement.

Not one state wildlife agency demanded that USFWS replace the stolen money - and not one person involved was ever tried for such grand theft.

Eric Y. - posted 1 year ago on 03-04-2019 10:17:06 pm

All the Wolf introduction from the very start was too anhiliatate the prey species we cherish and love to hunt. This all stems from the anti hunting groups being they have a hard time stopping people from hunting altogether they would just assume the wolf wipe everything out. Then they claim it’s natural food chain. The antis could care less about elk deer moose even the wolves for that matter they don’t care about anything as they are the same that abort millions of human babies. The only thing they care is stoppping you from doin what YOU want It’s called socialism Before any9ne responds to what I said in a negative manner. THINK ABOUT IT Which side of the line are you actually on

Eric Hardester_10154334241172157
Eric H. - posted 1 year ago on 03-04-2019 10:25:54 am
Gilbert, AZ

Jim Heffelfinger of AZGFD has expressed opposition to this, as it puts the Mexican Wolf reintroduction at risk. There is not a large enough mexican wolf population in AZ and NM yet to ensure interbreeding would not wipe out the mexican wolf genetics.

Mark A. - posted 1 year ago on 03-02-2019 10:39:36 pm
Lake Villa IL

Wisconsin pays indian communities to not spear fish on your license fees. Why not . Bring it on. you want serious.

Mark A. - posted 1 year ago on 03-02-2019 10:06:50 pm
Lake Villa IL

Yep. Great. Look at the mid west states who tried it. Now Indian communities upset. States are backing out. Guess whAT. THE WOLVES ARE STILL THERE. The deer and grouse are gone. Be careful of what you think is cool.

Chase K. - posted 1 year ago on 02-28-2019 07:51:54 am

What a fun bunch of problem solvers in this thread. Is this Twitter?

Seriously folks. As hunters, we've gotta find a way to navigate these tricky waters together, not steamroll down the path of screaming at each other online. Times like these we need to have some articulate, nuanced, and well-researched discussions. There is not a black and white answer to any of this. United we stand, divided... You get the jist.

Al C. - posted 1 year ago on 02-27-2019 07:01:07 am

Well I’ll give you my honest opinion about a few things you all are insulting each other over.

First this is the predator hay day that guilt afflicted urban America is comfortable burdening rural America with because it makes them feel environmentally wholesome. So as in the past, you will see the front range legislate environmental and conservation issues that effects them through what they experience on television and other media and effects the west slope through what we experience in the woods, on our property and in our small towns. This has resulted in the current limitations on bear hunting, trapping fur bearers and a never increasing allocation of cat tags. This issue will be decided by advertising on the front range and it is a social issue for them.

I can’t speak for your region but moose are doing well here. There are multiple new units open to moose hunting this year. However, mule deer are sucking hind tit and some sheep herds are in decline and some are sustaining but none are expanding. Mule deer fawn recruitment has been in decline before the snowmageden event of 2017. This is from CPW research and it reflects a non-weather dependent decline in the mule deer herd here. We have no gas development here and the habitat loss everyone loves to bring up is not really evident.

So what’s my take. I’m in the woods year round. I love scouting and glassing up elk, deer, sheep, goats, and antelope. I actually love the scout more than the hunt. I don’t want to have that diminished. I don’t like competition when I’m hunting be it human or wild animal. If you are going to bring in other predators then untie my hands to reduce the competition. Don’t let predator populations be controlled by cyclic predator prey relationships. Don’t burden me with your urban social guilt complex. We do lose livestock,pets, and property damage to predators, but that’s now my fault because I don’t live on the urban front range.

Michael P. - posted 1 year ago on 02-26-2019 07:40:54 am

Well said Nick. Paul, you claim I'm not a hunter because I can articulate a complex scenario and discuss objectively without spewing the nonsense of arm-chair biologists who spend a day in the field and become a wildlife expert? You can keep hanging out with your clique of hunters, but don't insult the rest of us hunters because we can see the bigger picture and have confidence in the scientists. And you ought to read the literature yourself regarding the restoration objectives for MT, WY, and ID. Far more than 300 wolves were predicted to be sustained... its just that 300 was the minimum to declare restoration. There's a huge difference. Please stop getting your info. from social media and blogs. Done with this.

Nick J. - posted 1 year ago on 02-26-2019 05:08:26 am

Paul. You have free ranging bison herds on your western border. We have hunts for them, its so popular it takes 16 points to draw one. You also have wolves. They are in the Uinta mtns in Utah just to your west as well. Fact is, you have no magical forcefield no matter what BGF says. Funny to me how wolves destroy everything, yet not one of us wont jump to head to alaska and hunt, where they are loaded with wolves. Moose are on the decline in Colorado now, same as everywhere else. That isn't the wolves, its the ticks. You can jump up and down, burn millions of dollars to lawyers and special interest groups, or you can spend that time, money, energy getting a management plan together. Either way, the wolf is coming to Colorado, if its not there already. We as hunters are long past the discussion of whether we like wolves or not. None of that matters anymore. We are now to, what are we going to do to exist with them.

Gary H. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 10:06:11 pm

Build the wall!!

Jason O. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 05:55:00 pm

Thanks for proving my point Micharl P. "you just can't argue with stupid".

Paul T. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 04:26:43 pm

Micheal it's totally unrealistic and you know that. where would you put bison for your backcountry experience? You are not a hunter. Where would your bison winter range? Where do the elk and deer winter range now? In people's back yards not in your backcountry.

Biologists deemed that Montana, Wyoming and Idaho's ecosystems could handle 300 wolves now there's 1900. The decrease In elk and deer populations and the eradication of moose correlates directly with the introduction of the Canadian timber wolf to the lower 48.

There are NO areas where wolf packs are established that have an increase in undulate populations. Your spewing pure unfiltered BS.

Now Phillips says there should be 250 just in Colorado? He's insane your probably on his payroll. If 300 wolves could be in 3 states then Colo could handle 100 wolves? That would be nice if there wasn't an extra 4 million people in Colorado compared to M, W, I. Colorado couldn't handle the wolf that came in 2004 it was hit on I-70!!!

Michael P. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 03:28:35 pm

Jason, are you suggesting that the only species we should tolerate are the ones that make adequate table fare? And I don't doubt that the elk/deer/moose pops have declined in some areas... just as they sometimes increase in other areas, even with wolves. But what you are not accounting for, just as many other hunters with anecdotal evidence only do, are weather, winter severity, habitat loss & degradation, cow/doe harvest, etc. It is so often the case that hunters mistake themselves for wildlife biologists and simplify what they think they are seeing in a very complicated and dynamic predator-prey relationship. I'm not saying wolves don't have an impact, they certainly do, but its not as simple as...... bring wolves in, game populations plummet. Just doesn't work that way.

Michael P. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 03:19:24 pm

Paul T, I would love to see bison back on the landscape in CO... it would absolutely make my backcountry hunting experience more complete. I'm not sure of the connection between 1 million bison today and the number in CO 100 years ago. It's obvious to most that there would be a much lower carrying capacity today for bison.... just as there would be a much lower carrying capacity for wolves today. But that doesn't mean that zero is the appropriate number of wolves. Few people are more into hunting than myself, and I personally would rather have wolves (and bison, wolverines, and any other native species) out there with me than without. And I'm far from alone in feeling that way.

Jason O. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 11:27:29 am

Well I can only speak from what I have personally seen and experienced. My family lives in Idaho and we have watched the Elk, deer and moose population in our area decrease significantly year by year. Our hunting skills and confidence are just fine. Just stating a very simple and accurate statistic. The wolf came back and shortly thereafter the deer, elk and moose population declined. When a wolf starts tasting as good as an elk and can fill my freezer just the same I guess we will start eating wolf.

Paul T. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 10:53:33 am

Micheal P, why is there no push to return the grizzly back to Colorado??? That's an apex predator. Wolves more than 100 years ago hunted bison, let's bring 1 million free roaming bison back to Colorado. or better yet put them in your back yard and we can let the wolves have at them!!

Michael P. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 10:12:38 am

Wow, a bunch of grown men afraid of wolves? Maybe they just aren't confident enough in their own hunting skills when the elk get a little wiser. It's clear by this article that goHunt is opposed to wolf recovery. Funny how conservation-minded companies (and people) still pick and choose which species are worthy of conserving...

Paul T. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 06:53:55 am

This is not Colorado discussing wolf reintroduction it is one group. Rocky mountain wolf project. They are testing the water on the western slope to see how much opposition they get. Then when they need signatures they will canvas the people living in the front range and colleges to dupe them into signing. They will have posters of wolf pups that look sooooo cute!

Colorado has 5.6-6 m people and growing!! Montana, Idaho and Wyoming combined has 3.4?!?!?!

There is simply no room, from the front range to the continental divide there are houses and neiborhoods with deer and elk populations. Now RMWP wants to unleash an uncontrollable apex pack hunter?!?! A guy just had to choke out an 80# mountain lion he would be dead if it were a wolves!!!

This is an arrogant self righteous attempt of anti hunters to press their agenda at the expense of people trying to live in Colorado.

Unleashing an uncontrollable Apex predator will have devastating effects on victims lives. There will be multiple cases like Candice Berner, multiple incedents with every pack they place in Colorado. Once people start posting on YouTube the carnage and devistation these packs will bring to wildlife, stock, and PETS conflicts with people and kids. Everyone one that is not delusional will be carrying and those not carrying will be potential Wolf scat!

The moose population in Wyoming is gone!! Because of wolf predation and the diseases wolves carry.

The only reason there are wild animals in Colorado to VIEW is because of science based hunter management for over 100 years! Now the Rocky Mountain wolf project wants to force in an Uncontrollable Apex Predator to decimate our lives and economy.

We must all stand up and fight this atrocity!!!

Fred T. - posted 1 year ago on 02-25-2019 05:38:24 am

From Montana: keep in mind on very important thing, There was NO re-introduction of wolves in Montana! There was the introduction of the Alaskan Wolf in Montana, a much larger predator than the Timber wolf! These much larger wolves are able to kill about anything they want!

Keep this mind when you consider altering your environment. Fred Thomas St Senate Majority Leader

Eddie K. - posted 1 year ago on 02-24-2019 08:35:47 pm

"I realize Colorado isn't Wyoming politically"

This is the key issue, PERIOD. If you think wolves caused turmoil and drama in the other Rocky Mountain states, wait til they get introduced here in CO...

matthew a. - posted 1 year ago on 02-23-2019 03:34:58 pm
Sheridan, WY

Sweet, can I hunt wloves on your ranch ?

Ranchunt N. - posted 1 year ago on 02-23-2019 11:33:08 am

Wow...does anyone realize wolves have lived in MT and WY for 25 years now? not only in all these years have they NOT killed every elk deer person and bigfoot, they definitely have not forced any of us hunters to go to other states to hunt. Not only does WY have to feed them like cattle because they have so many, ranchers are illegaly killing them. In Yellowstone their numbers have remained unchanged since 2000 when it was finally considered an optimal sustainable number. Remember the disaster in the 90's when 5,000 were harvested after complaints from visitors to the park watched starving elk die in front of them or because of the decaying bodies scattered on roadways?

We definitely have plenty of everything here still in MT...we even have livestock left with wolves if you can believe that..contrary to reports that ranchers would be out of business in a year, or that wolves would take over the world it's yet to 25 years I repeat..of them being reintroduced...I guess it's a generational or Educational thing, because most of us newer (by newer I mean not generational ranchers) ranchers are aware that as long as a pack is established in your area, that hasn't caused problems, your best to leave them because you know they will keep the coyotes away.

matthew a. - posted 1 year ago on 02-23-2019 11:30:05 am
Sheridan, WY


Ofcoarse I'm aware, every time I head into the Frank Church is see dozens of elk bone piles as a result of wolves. I admit that eventually wolves and grizzlies will be in CO; that doesnt mean efforts to actively fast forward this reality should occur.
I feel were better off applying an Isolate and Contain strategy, which CO inadvertanly is executing. As far as hunting wolves, ask anyone from Idaho how effective that is.

We are on the same team, and one day when I'm retired my mission in life will be predator control!

Nick J. - posted 1 year ago on 02-23-2019 05:20:15 am

Matthew, you do realize WY, MT, ID all have wolves right now don't you? There is a ton of money being made on both sides of this issue, with an animal stuck in the middle. At the end of the day that is what most of the fights are anymore, money. The genie is out of the bottle, you're not going to shove it back in, and while I realize Colorado isn't Wyoming politically, Wyoming is the model for how states should address the apex predator issues. Get them off ESA and get to hunting them ASAP, that is the model. Giving BGF millions to do press releases and put out PR statements is just a waste of money that should be spent getting management plans ready to roll.

matthew a. - posted 1 year ago on 02-22-2019 11:41:00 am
Sheridan, WY


I agree with most of your opinions, we need to stop Boulder and Denver resident liberals from passing a bill that would support the reintroduction.
If wolves get introduced and destroy the elk populations, this will force non resident hunters to other states in search of better grounds. Scary to think of roughly 100,000 hunters entering into WY, MT, or ID as a new destination. Talk about point creep....

John M. - posted 1 year ago on 02-22-2019 08:28:03 am

Very bad news here. It's no secret that these predators do tremendous damage to ungulate populations. The once famous Lolo elk herd in northern Idaho was reduced from about 15,000 head in 1989 to under 2,000 in 2017. Granted, there are other factors but don't kid yourself, the wolves had a major hand in the decline of the elk. I hunt central Idaho every year and they have definitely done visible damage to the herds there. I have also spotted them in the mountains just outside of Boise. I hope that Colorado doesn't suffer like Idaho has. Hunters need to band together and fight this...the way I see it, this is the anti-hunters way of slowly stopping hunting.