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CPW releases draft plan for Colorado wolf reintroduction

The draft plan, which could change before final approval, calls for the release of 30 to 50 wolves on the Western Slope over 3 to 5 years.

DENVER — The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) draft plan for wolf reintroduction that was released publicly on Friday calls for 30 to 50 wolves to be released on the Western Slope over three to five years.

CPW presented the plan to the Parks and Wildlife Commission on Friday, and the plan is available to read here. It's mandated by Proposition 114, which Colorado voters approved in November 2020 and requires CPW to take steps to begin the reintroduction of gray wolves west of the Continental Divide by Dec. 31, 2023.

The public can comment on the draft plan online through Feb. 22 or attend one of five public meetings across the state. Details could change before the CPW Commission gives final approval.

> The video above aired Oct. 29: Wolves shot in Wyoming may be from a Colorado pack

The key takeaways from the draft plan are:

  • Colorado wildlife officials will reintroduce 30 to 50 wolves in total over the next three to five years. That's 10 to 15 wolves per year.
  • The wolves will likely be captured and relocated from several different packs in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and possibly Oregon and Washington, with the assistance of those states' wildlife management agencies.
  • The captured wolves will be released west of the Continental Divide with a 60-mile buffer from neighboring states. That's because scientists found wolves released in the 1990s in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho moved an average of 50 miles immediately after release.
  • Colorado wildlife officials will track the wolves with GPS monitoring collars. Wolves will no longer be listed on the state's Threatened and Endangered Species List if the population reaches 150 wolves for two straight years or 200 wolves at any time.
  • CPW will assist livestock owners with tools to scare away wolves. It also includes payments for livestock deaths and in rare cases would allow for the killing of a wolf.

The five public hearings on the draft plan will be:

  • Jan. 19, Colorado Springs, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Jan. 25, Gunnison, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Feb. 7, Rifle, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Feb. 16, Virtual via Zoom, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 22, Denver, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

CPW will present a final draft plan on April 6, and CPW Commissioners will vote on approval for the plan on May 3 and 4.

> Below, watch the recording of the CPW December meeting that included the release of the draft plan:

Until recently, the last known resident wolves in Colorado were here in the 1940s. Two wolves migrated separately to the state in 2019 and 2021 and produced a litter of pups in Jackson County. That pack has been responsible for multiple deaths of livestock.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections for gray wolves in 2020, but a federal judge reversed that decision in February and made them a federally endangered species in Colorado. Wolves can't be taken for any reason other than self-defense. That includes landowners whose livestock gets killed by a wolf, according to CPW.

Illegally taking a wolf might result in a combination of penalties, including fines and jail time.

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