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Colorado finalizes wolf reintroduction plan

State officials plan to reintroduce wolves to Colorado by the end of 2023.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado now has an official wolf reintroduction plan.

On Wednesday, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission gave final approval to the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management plan.

The 261-page document outlines how the state will implement Ballot Initiative 114, which mostly voters in urban areas approved back in 2020. It calls for the state to restore gray wolves to Colorado on the western side of the Continental Divide.

CPW is planning for wolves to be reintroduced by the end of 2023. But the first challenge in implementation will be finding a place to get wolves.

“The first part of that is identifying the sources of where wolves will come from,” said Eric Odell, CPW's species conservation program manager. “We’ve had a lot of informal conversations with other states thus far, in terms of them being sources for establishing wolf pop here in Colorado, but formal conversations haven’t happened yet.

Earlier this week, 9NEWS revealed the state wasn’t sure from where the wolves would be sourced. CPW’s draft plans called for cooperation with Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon or Washington. But officials from those states either said they haven’t had formal conversations with Colorado, or are uninterested in providing wolves.

Wednesday, CPW said they do not have cost estimates yet for sourcing wolves.

“We’re not purchasing animals from other states,” Odell said. “We’re working with other states, potentially private trappers, and other crews, to capture those animals and transport them to Colorado. We don’t have details of what that’s going to look like. There’s lots of operational costs are operational costs – collecting the animals, collaring the animals, treating them for disease, collecting all the genetic information… but we don’t have a fixed cost or estimate for what that would be.

“We commonly trade wildlife species with other states,” added Reid DeWalt, CPW’s assistant director for wildlife and natural resources. “Whether we give them species, or they give us species. It’s a common occurrence between states and wildlife management agencies. We have a history of doing this before, and we’ll continue to do it with wolves and other species.”

The state spent months hearing from the public about this plan prior to final approval. Throughout that process, ranchers have expressed deep concern about what the wolves will mean for their livestock and pets.

The final plan says ranchers will be compensated for any livestock killed by wolves, up to $15,000 per animal.

There are also a few things that have to happen before new wolves can be brought to Colorado.

The federal government could give approval to list gray wolves as "experimental" rather than "endangered," which gives Colorado more control over managing the wolf population. This would impact how and when someone can kill a wolf.

CPW asked for that change, and said Wednesday the state expects that new rule issued by the feds by mid-December.

Additionally, a bill nearing final passage in the Colorado state legislature says state officials can't bring wolves here until the federal rules are changed.

Some wolves are already living in Colorado. CPW said a pair naturally migrated to Colorado two years ago and had a litter of wolf pups. CPW collared two of the male wolves in February living in Jackson County.

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