Letters to the editor…
The Middle Park Stockgrowers would like to address two articles that were featured in the Grand Gazette regarding the reintroduction of wolves into Colorado, one on February 27th and the other on March 26th. The articles state that students in 2nd grade and 4th grade classes at West Grand Elementary School were shown a video about wolves and then asked to vote on whether wolves should be reintroduced to Colorado. Not knowing the kind of video that was being shown, it is hard to say if the video was for or against the reintroduction of wolves. We appreciate getting kids to become critical thinkers about real life issues BUT asking 2nd and 4th graders to vote on the reintroduction of wolves is a very touchy subject. Here are some facts about wolves you should consider before voting on the wolf reintroduction ballot initiative this fall.
- Wolves are apex predators and act as agents of dispersion
Being at the top of the food chain means that wolves feed on a wide variety of prey species. Once populations of big game (like elk, deer, and moose) become depleted, wolves will switch to their next best source of food, livestock. This will not only hurt the bottom line of ranchers in the area, it will also lure wolves closer to people and towns. What happens then? You had better keep a closer eye on your kids and elderly parents/grandparents. What those 2nd and 4th graders may not understand is that cute, ‘helpless’ wolf pups grow up to be large, fierce carnivores.
Many suggest the wolf needs to be brought back to bring a balance back to the ecosystem. The fact is, that will only happen for a fleeting moment. They will ultimately decimate their prey base of elk, moose, and deer. A single wolf kills an estimated 16-22 elk per year. In 2015, the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population was estimated to be more than 1,700 wolves.
Wolves are not discriminatory predators. Cattle, sheep, horses, and dogs are all prey to the wolves. In Idaho, it was recorded that 70% of cattle and 51% of sheep were killed on private property. Wolves disrupt grazing patterns, which leads to decreased weight gain in calves and lambs. Ranchers then face increased costs of time and labor for additional herd monitoring.Bonnie Brown, Colorado Wool Growers Association said it best, “Wolf advocates state that wolf depredation of livestock is only a small percentage of the total number of livestock. While this statement is true, it lacks relevance and attempts to divert scrutiny away from the real issue: the number of livestock killed by wolves that are within proximity of wolves. Obviously, no livestock are going to be killed by wolves if there are no wolves in the area.”
While traveling vast distances throughout their home ranges, wolves can also act as agents of dispersion. Not only can they displace herds of big game from their traditional habitat, wolves can also transmit diseases from one area to next.
- Wolves pose threats to human life and safety
There is a very limited amount of suitable habitat for wolves in Colorado. Though Colorado is large, our human population is spread out across most of the state. This results in “habitat fragmentation”, meaning that the available habitat for wolves is fragmented into smaller areas due to human development and roads. Historically, wolves could roam the wild West without encountering human presence; that is not the case today. As populations of wolves and humans expand, there will be more conflict. “As with mountain lions and bears, when we see wild animals approaching people, there is concern for human safety. We don’t like to have to kill wildlife, but sometimes we don’t have any other choice,” said Mark Deleray, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional supervisor in Bozeman. “We are not there yet with these wolves – although they have been in and around town. We will continue to assess the situation, do our best to track current wolf behavior, and base our future actions on that assessment.”
- Who is paying for reintroduction and the untold cost of restitution for livestock loss?
The real question about reintroducing wolves to Colorado is, how is everything going to be paid for? Introducing and managing wolves costs money. Not only does it cost money to maintain the wolves; it takes a financial toll on two major revenue sources for the state of Colorado: big game hunting and agriculture. The potential loss of elk, deer, moose populations in Colorado will undoubtedly result in loss of big game hunting revenues, which could negatively impact Grand County more than other areas in the state. Furthermore, agriculture is one of Colorado’s top industries, with cattle production leading the charge in ag commodities. If wolf populations surge, cattle production is likely to take a hit as well.
The Middle Park Stockgrowers urge everyone to do their part by researching the ballot issue and seriously considering the pros and cons of the reintroducing wolves to Colorado. Please also keep in mind that children are like sponges. They soak up the words they hear from their parents, teachers, and friends. Share with them the knowledge you learn (good and bad) so they can be more fully informed. This will allow them to take an educated stance on the subject without letting the emotions of seeing cute, precious pups cloud their judgements.
Board of Directors
Middle Park Stockgrowers Association