Conservation through Science under God

Want wolves? Buy a Hunting License.
Nov 16, 2020 11:32 ET

[Reprinted from original]

Original Title: Guest opinion: Dean Rundle: Some truths about wolves
More than two thirds of Boulder County voters said “yes” on Proposition 114, requiring the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (CPW) to reintroduce gray wolves west of the Continental Divide by the end of 2023.

Wolves are magnificent. Wolves play a significant role at the top of the food chain. They are neither good or evil. They’re just wolves, doing what wolves have always done, killing and eating other critters to make a living.

We didn’t need an initiative to restore wolves in Colorado. Wolves are here. More are coming, as they did in Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Utah, and Michigan.

Wolves aren’t grizzlies. They breed young, have big litters, and pioneer rapidly into prey-rich habitats. As we learned in the 1990s, when wolves exploded out of the Boundary Waters across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, wolves do not need vast expanses of roadless wilderness. They only need red meat, and not be poisoned or shot on sight, as vermin.

Wolves were not extirpated from almost all of the lower 48 states by hunting and fur trapping. They were intentionally eradicated by government-sponsored programs.

Absent such programs managed by state wildlife agencies that treat wolves as valuable game animals, they will repopulate significant portions of their historic range in the coming decades. There are thousands of gray wolves in Europe – in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Greece, and other countries with dense human populations and far fewer wild ungulates than we have in Colorado.

Contrary to the Daily Camera’s editorial of Sept. 26, unhunted wolves are not that shy of people (how do you think we got dogs?). Once established out west, wolves will rapidly pioneer into the Front Range.

They will probably get here faster than the moose did in the 1980s. We’ll likely have wolves in Boulder County by 2030. Our habitat is great and wolves will join the bears and cougars among us. They will eat some dogs, alpacas, and llamas. Ask the people in northern Minnesota if wolves eat pets.

Wolves will not wipe out our deer and elk. Some elk herds may decline and wolves will change elk behavior and make elk harder to hunt, view, or photograph. Wolves will be blamed for predation by bears and cats. Some packs will never bother livestock; other packs will kill many cattle and sheep. Some ranchers will not be affected. Others will be decimated.

Citing data from Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, wolf expert Norman Bishop wrote to the Camera on Oct. 17, assuring that wolves will not impact big game populations or livestock in Colorado. I don’t claim to be a wolf expert, but I am a graduate wildlife biologist with many years managing national wildlife refuges in wolf country – in Minnesota, Montana, and Wyoming.

Mr. Bishop forgot to mention that wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are managed populations. Licensed hunters and trappers take 550 to 650 gray wolves in those states each year.

Wolves that kill livestock may be killed by aerial gunning by U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. Who knows how many are killed in the 95% of Wyoming where wolves are classified as predators and can be killed 7/24/365 without a license?

A vote for Prop. 114 was a vote to reintroduce and manage wolves in Colorado. CPW will establish population and distribution objectives for Colorado’s wolves.

Expect reintroduced wolves to rapidly meet and exceed those objectives. Wolves will exceed social tolerance carrying capacity before they reach any ecological carrying capacity.

They will be managed. Understand this: If we want to have wolves, we must be willing to kill wolves. Expect that we will have a wolf hunting season in Colorado within 10 years of reintroduction.

Prop 114 requires CPW to pay for wolf reintroduction, management, and livestock depredation. CPW receives no state tax revenue. Expect no general funds from the Legislature.

Understand this: Hunters and anglers will pay for the wolves urban voters said they want through license fees and federal taxes on sporting equipment. If you voted for Prop. 114, do the right thing and buy a hunting license.

Don’t donate money. Buy a license. Federal aid dollars are allocated to states based on their number of licensed hunters. Buying a license will reap CPW a larger share of the windfall caused by exploding firearms and ammunition sales.

Your $25 turkey license or $30 small game license will help pay for wolf restoration, your access to state wildlife areas, and conservation of all of Colorado’s wildlife.

Dean Rundle of Nederland has B.S. and M.S. degrees in wildlife science and is retired after a 33-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He worked as the assistant manager of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in northern Minnesota from 1988 to 1996, and prior to retiring, he supervised all national wildlife refuges in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah from 2007 to 2013.