JACKSON COUNTY, Colorado — Colorado Parks and Wildlife is working to install new tools on Jackson County ranches that have been impacted by a pack of wolves living nearby.
The goal is to try to keep the wolves away from the livestock after several cows and a dog were killed in the past few weeks.
"I don’t want to see livestock destroyed by wolves, and I don’t want to see wolves destroyed by people," said Carter Neimeyer, who has worked with wolves for decades.
Neimeyer helped reintroduce wolves to the northern Rockies in the mid-1990s and is a former wolf recovery coordinator in Idaho for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now he’s helping advise Colorado Parks and Wildlife on its plan to reintroduce wolves to the state in the coming years as a member of the Technical Working Group.
The wolves that killed the animals in Jackson County likely migrated from Wyoming. They had pups here in Colorado, and formed a pack.
"It’s a situation that going unchecked, the wolves develop a learned behavior to kill livestock," Neimeyer said. "You’ve just got to train them. When they start stepping out of line and doing things that are unacceptable, you’ve got to really get on it and deal with it aggressively."
While it’s illegal to kill wolves in Colorado, new regulations passed this month allow ranchers to haze wolves to keep them away.
Flags that scare the wolves away can hang around pastures. Ranchers can use rubber bullets or beanbags to fire at them. Strobe lights and loud sounds can be used to keep the predators out.
"These wolves naturally migrated in from out of state," Travis Duncan with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. "We’ve had our wildlife officers out at the ranch helping with things like putting in what’s known as cracker shells to haze wolves, though they use those sparingly. They’re noisemakers, essentially."
CPW has wildlife officers in Jackson County working with the ranchers to try to find solutions. CPW is charged with coming up with a plan to reintroduce wolves to Colorado by the end of 2023, per the ballot initiative that passed last year.
Neimeyer maintains he’s neutral on the issue of reintroducing wolves to Colorado. One thing he knows for sure is the wolves and ranchers will have to learn to coexist.
"You have to try to teach these wolves that if they’re going to live in Colorado they have to be good neighbors," Neimeyer said. "About 80% of the wolf packs do not bother livestock or get in trouble. It’s not automatic to assume that every wolf pack is going to kill livestock."
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