Gray Wolf Management Plan

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The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is in the initial stages of developing a Gray Wolf Management Plan this year and will gather input from the general public before appointing a multi-disciplinary work group to draft a statewide strategy.

Colorado is part of the gray wolf’s native range, but wolves were eradicated from the state by the mid-1930s. Over the past decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has reintroduced gray wolves into Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona, and some observers believe it is only a matter of time before wolves start migrating into Colorado from the north and south.

Researchers say dispersing wolves—especially single male wolves—can travel long distances. To prepare for any future wolf migrations into Colorado, the DOW will gather input from the public during a series of forums this year and set up a multi-disciplinary work group that will develop a draft Wolf Management Plan by the end of August.

“Wolves are a controversial species, and we want everyone to have the opportunity to express their opinions about wolf management in Colorado,” said Gary Skiba, multi-species coordinator for the DOW’s species conservation section.

Skiba said the working group in charge of developing a formal plan would include members of livestock, sportsmen, environmental and non-governmental groups, as well as representatives from local and state government agencies. Once the group draws up a draft, it will be made available for public comment for a 60-day period.

The Wolf Management Plan is expected to be in place by the end of 2004. The plan, which must receive final approval from the DOW director, will build on preliminary guidelines already set up by the DOW with regard to how residents and wildlife officers should respond to reports of wolf sightings.

Another consideration in Colorado’s bid to establish a formal Wolf Management Plan is an effort by the USFWS to delist certain gray wolf populations from protection under the Endangered Species Act by the end of the year.

Colorado falls into two different USFWS regions dictating wolf management in the contiguous United States. The region north of Interstate 70 falls in the Western Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and the region south of the highway in the Southwestern DPS.

The USFWS plans to delist Rocky Mountain gray wolves in the Western DPS, giving Colorado and other states control over the predators. Once that happens, the state will have complete management control of wolves, but only north of I-70.

Wolf management in Colorado south of I-70 will be handled differently because the Southwestern DPS—which covers the range of Mexican gray wolves reintroduced into New Mexico and Arizona—would remain under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Citizens interested in receiving additional information and providing input on wolf management should visit the DOW Web site to learn when and where public forums and other opportunities to provide input will be provided over the coming months.