Why a Forced Wolf Introduction is a Bad Idea

Colorado’s economy, elk population, conservation funding, hunting industry and resident taxpayer dollars are in the crosshairs

Details of each of these bullet points can be found at the RMEF website [click here]

Colorado’s economy, elk population, conservation funding, hunting industry and resident taxpayer dollars are in the crosshairs. An environmental extremist-driven ballot initiative aims to force an introduction of wolves onto the Colorado landscape even though Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed a natural migrating, active pack in the northwest part of the state.

Proponents are offering zero funding for wolf management, livestock or pet depredation, deterrent measures, research or other costs. Yet they expect Colorado taxpayers and hunters to foot a bill that will be millions upon millions of dollars. As outdoorsmen and women who care about wildlife and our wild landscapes, we must unite and fight against this measure.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Colorado’s economy, elk population, conservation funding, hunting industry and resident taxpayer dollars are in the crosshairs. An environmental extremist-driven ballot initiative aims to force an introduction of wolves onto the Colorado landscape even though Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed a natural migrating, active pack in the northwest part of the state.

“Ballot box biology is reckless. In this particular case, it totally undermines the authority of Colorado’s wildlife professionals who have said time and time again over several decades that a forced wolf introduction is a bad idea,” said Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “As an organization, RMEF pledges to do all in our power to educate voters about the significant, real-life, detrimental impacts of such an effort.”

RMEF first warned about the initiative proposal three years ago. Since then, environmental extremists have raised more than $1 million, the lion’s share of it from out-of-state donors, to gather and deliver 215,000 (of nearly six million residents) petition signatures to the Colorado secretary of state. Staffers later deemed 76,037 or 35.3 percent of projected signatures as invalid but approved the measure for the 2020 ballot by a projected margin of 1.8 percent.

Colorado is home to the largest elk herd in North America, yet researchers in the southwest part of the state are trying to figure out why elk recruitment is ailing.

RMEF has a long history in Colorado. Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 782 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects with a combined value of more than $177.7 million. These projects protected or enhanced 468,068 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 122,107 acres. There are also more than 17,000 RMEF members and 28 chapters in the state.

“Proponents are offering zero funding for wolf management, livestock or pet depredation, deterrent measures, research or other costs. Yet they expect Colorado taxpayers and hunters to foot a bill that will be millions upon millions of dollars. As outdoorsmen and women who care about wildlife and our wild landscapes, we must unite and fight against this measure,” added Weaver.

FACTS (Follow the Money)

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office confirmed an Initiative sponsored by extreme environmental groups calling for a forced introduction of wolves into Colorado will appear on the 2020 state ballot.  Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Arizona Deer Association and HuntingFishing.com strongly oppose this ballot initiative. Here’s why:

1.  It’s never ENOUGH for the left wing environmentalists, regardless of the cost.

2.  $6 million in new spending for unnecessary wolf initiative during COVID-19-related budget shortfall

Wolf ballot initiative proponents ignore the massive revenue shortfall, offer no funding for their measure & continue to push a forced wolf introduction projected to cost Coloradans $6 million in NEW spending.

38 Colorado Counties on Record Opposing Wolf Ballot Initiative

3.  Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) already confirms an active wolf pack in northwest Colorado

After the initial release of 34 wolves into central Idaho in 1995-96, wolves naturally spread throughout Idaho and across state lines into Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. Professional and state federal wildlife managers saw no need to artificially introduce more wolves for the sake of genetic diversity or for any other reason as those wolves continue to multiply on their own. At last count minimum estimated populations number 1,000 wolves in Idaho, 900 in Montana, 158 in Oregon, 145 in Washington and 7-10 in California.

4.  CPW, the recognized professional authority overseeing wildlife management, is already on the record as “opposed to the intentional release of any wolves into Colorado”

Independent polling shows:
92 percent of Coloradans have a favorable opinion of CPW
63 percent of Coloradans believe state wildlife professionals can do a better job managing wildlife than voters.
62 percent of Coloradans believe state wildlife professionals can do a better job managing wildlife than court judges or animal rights activists

5.  CPW is legislatively mandated to NOT comment on the initiative so Colorado’s most informed scientific wildlife management voices are forced to be silent

6.  CPW already has a management plan in place for naturally migrating wolves

Creation of the Colorado Wolf Management Plan for natural migrating wolves was a seven-month process in 2004 by a 14-member working group made up of two wildlife biologists, four wildlife advocates, four livestock producers, two sportsmen and two local government officials.

7.  The working group recommended funding for wolf management come from sources other than hunting license sales.

8.  Initiative will cost Colorado taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars

The Colorado Legislative Council Staff’s Initial Fiscal Impact Statement breaks down costs for FY (Fiscal Year) 2021-22 & FY 2022-23. An open records request reveals an estimated breakdown of funding for the first eight years of initiative:

FY 2021-22 $344,363
FY 2022-23 $467,387
FY2023-24  $818,427
FY 2024-25 $788,427
FY 2025-26 $830,027
FY 2026-27 $846,927
FY 2027-28 $821,427
FY 2028-29 $782,927

Total $5,719,812 Million

Past history and current events from other states show costs only escalate once wolves are on the ground, multiply & disperse, and are involved with increasing depredation incidents.

9.  This is an unfunded mandate with proponents offering ZERO support to pay for introduction, wolf depredation, deterrent measures, research or other financial burdens

Proponents began to publicly raise funds for a ballot initiative to forcibly introduce wolves into Colorado in 2017. Despite raising $1,351,242.24 by January 1, 2020, advocates allocated zero dollars in funding toward actual on-the-ground forced introduction efforts. Instead they call for “appropriations as are necessary to fund programs” but offer no assistance. Nor do they offer financial assistance for:

• Costs of pre-planning entire operation
• Costs of federal staff to oversee effort
• Costs of aircraft to find wolves
• Costs of trapping wolves
• Costs of holding, overseeing wolves for quarantine period and disease testing, etc.
• Costs of monitoring wolves once they’re on the ground
• Costs of wolf-related research
• No mechanism in place to pay for livestock/pet depredation
• Costs of hiring new CPW personnel to oversee wolf management
• Costs of non-lethal deterrent efforts
• Costs of lethal wolf removal by CPW or in-state hired services
• Costs of lethal wolf removal efforts by Wildlife Services

10.  Forced wolf introduction is driven by out-of-state interests

Financial disclosure reports show that as of January 1, 2020, proponents fundraised $1,351,242.24. Of that amount, $1,091,920.50 or 80.81 percent is from out-of-state. The top ten contributors are below:

1. Tides Center-San Francisco, CA-$333,649.73
2. Defenders of Wildlife-Washington DC-$260,600
3. Timothy Ferriss-Austin, TX-$122,500
4. Assn of Zoos & Aquariums-Maryland-$100,000
5. Center for Biological Diversity-Tucson, AZ-$35,000
6. Colorado Sierra Club-Denver, CO-$30,325.18
7. Jodi Richard-New York, NY-$16,043.98
8. Trammell Crow-Dallas, TX-$6,000
9. Liberty Godshall-Los Angeles, CA-$5,400
10. Mike Phillips-Bozeman, MT-$3,776

11.  Wolf populations will spread far beyond proposed introduction area including statewide & beyond

• Wolves will spread throughout the state of Colorado where elk live as well as into Utah, Arizona and New Mexico and other states.
• History shows a population spread to be inevitable. After the initial release of 34 wolves into central Idaho in 1995-96, wolves spread throughout Idaho and across state lines into Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. The initial release of 31 wolves into Yellowstone also led to the spread of wolves into Wyoming and other locations. At last count minimum estimated populations number 1,000 wolves in Idaho, 900 in Montana, 158 in Oregon, 145 in Washington and seven to 10 in California.
• Recent wolf packs confirmed in western Washington, western Oregon and in California are 600 miles from the original central Idaho release point.
• A Colorado forced introduction could also threaten the existence of Mexican wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, federal and state agencies spent more than $44 million toward recovery and introduction of the Mexican wolf in those two states. Scientists there fear a Colorado gray wolf introduction “threatens the genetic integrity and recovery of the subspecies.” Translation: the genetic extinction of the Mexican wolf is a very real possibility.

12.  Forced wolf introduction will negatively impact Colorado’s ungulate populations

• CPW introduced moose into the state beginning in 1978. Subsequent releases led to a current estimated population of 3,000. History and current activity shows wolves have significant detrimental impacts on moose. According to renowned wolf researcher David Mech, an increasing wolf population in Minnesota led to a drastic decrease in moose numbers. Since 2006, the moose population in northeast Minnesota dropped 65 percent to an estimated 4,350 animals.
• Ongoing research in southwest Colorado aims to determine why elk numbers are ailing. Approximately half of the calves born today are not surviving even six months. RMEF provided funding for the study.
• Data provided in the 2019 CPW big game regulation book shows of the 17 statewide elk units that are under objective, 13 of those are in western or southwestern Colorado. And of the 47 statewide deer units that are under objective, 41 of those are west of the Continental Divide. A forced introduction of wolves on the West Slope followed by an expanding wolf population will result in definite impacts on ungulate populations.

13.  Wolves will negatively impact farming & ranching families including livestock & pets

A ballot initiative to forcibly introduce wolves onto the Colorado landscape flies in the face of science.

There are very real costs and negative impacts for individual ranching families associated with wolves and wolf-livestock interactions including predation; increased expenses for monitoring cattle, deterrence, more food to make up for poor diet, additional veterinary costs due to injuries and threats to working animals like dogs & horses; fewer animals due to unaccounted individuals after wolf attacks, increased stress including PTSD-like symptoms and poor behavior, lower pregnancy rates and miscarriages; smaller cattle due to weight loss; diseases spread by wolves; and an emotional toll due to financial burden/stress and concern for well-being of livestock and other animals.

14.  Research shows wolves do not slow or stop the spread of chronic wasting disease despite non-stop claims by proponents & wolf researcher David Mech stated such claims are merely speculation.

• No scientific studies exist showing wolves slow or stop the spread of CWD & wolf researcher David Mech stated such claims are merely speculation.
• Right now, there are also approximately 30 wolf packs within 50 miles of the northwest Montana town of Libby where CWD was first detected in early 2019. By July 2019, there were five confirmed samples. By January 2020, there were 64 CWD-positive samples, thus the disease continues to spread despite the presence of wolves.
• Colorado State University’s Prion Research Center scientists found CWD prions remain infectious and are actually distributed by canids (coyotes in this specific research) after they ingest infected ungulates, defecate or leave their saliva behind as they move across the landscape. Their research shows it takes at least three days for CWD-infected brain material to pass entirely through the gastrointestinal tract of coyotes, who are known to cover 50 miles or more per day. Wolves are the largest member of the canid family so they may spread it too.
• On a similar front, proponents claim trophic cascade theory formulated in the mid-2000s and espoused in Yellowstone automatically translates to Colorado’s landscapes. Renowned wolf researcher David Mech warned against “sanctifying the wolf.” In that research, he stated “any such cascading effects of wolves found in National Parks would have little relevance to most of the wolf range because of overriding anthropogenic (related to human activity) influences there on wolves, prey, vegetation, and other parts of the food web.” More recent, vigorous and peer-reviewed research conducted in the same location as the original study refutes the theory altogether. And citing trophic cascade theory that wolves reshaped the Yellowstone landscape, Arthur Middleton, assistant professor of wildlife management and policy at California Berkeley, simple said, “It’s not true.”

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