This information is provided to sportsmen representatives by Reid DeWalt, Assistant Director for Wildlife and Natural Resources for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) and the Technical Working Group (TWIG) met in early December. For the most part, the meeting was in person, and the group had one out-of-state participant from the TWIG come in from Montana. In addition, they had Zoom rooms set up for attendees who couldn’t attend in person.
“We continue to focus on the compensation program for livestock owners, prevention techniques, and compensation options,” said Reid DeWalt. “The stakeholders are driving the conversations, and I think we’re getting to the point now where we’re close to having about three different draft ideas to chew on for that group.”
DeWalt shared that almost any plan will work if you have public support. The SAG is starting to gel and challenge each other on some assumptions and preconceived ideas.
January meetings will be virtual due to foreseen COVID restrictions. The DNR did receive an exemption for holding the December meeting in person, but they don’t think they’ll get that exemption in January.
The DNR continually meets with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the wolf introduction process. Initially, the DNR was working with a pre-listing form 10(j), but now they are working on what’s called a 10(a)(1)(a). The DNR is trying to get the best path forward with some protection of taking provisions, as the DNR doesn’t want to implement more restrictions on private landowners through Prop. 114.
“It’s a discussion that’s taken a lot of time, a lot of work. We’re trying to do something kind of novel here,” says DeWalt. “We’re making sure that we’re doing it right with something as high profile as wolf reintroduction.” The DNR is trying to meet a deadline to implement 114 by the 2023 requirement.
Additionally, CPW continues to monitor events on the ground. There are now eight wolves in the North Park area, which includes two adults that had a group of six offspring this year. All the offspring and the female are blackish in color, and the male is a grayish color. The male is one that CPW captured and collared, and the female came down from Wyoming with a VHF collar.
“The wolves continue to stay in that North Park area, but they’re not sticking just around the den site,” said DeWalt. “We’ve seen movements of up to 20 miles from those animals.”
Mid-December, CPW received a report of a potential kill on a yearling heifer in North Park–a confirmed wolf kill. In addition, CPW continues to get notifications in the northern half of the state of other wolf sightings. As a result, they spend a lot of time working to confirm those accounts.
“We find it difficult when every video of a wolf is grainy and hard to determine,” says DeWalt. “It’s kind of like Big Foot in that the footage is always grainy. However, we do have a video that’s high quality that we’re working to confirm that from the Middle Park area. So this report could mean that there are more wolves out on the landscape; we’re working to verify if there are or not.”
There are four stages in the planning for the implementation of Prop. 114.
- The first step in the process is in the restoration logistics report.
- The second one is this compensation and prevention program.
- The third one is the meat of the plan and what we’re calling Wolf Management, and the DNR will work on that next, probably starting in February. However, we want to make sure we get the compensation program pretty well down the road because everyone will get distracted if we begin talking take and other things, numbers of walls, where we’re going to put them, that type of stuff. That will then be the conversation, and everyone will forget that we had a compensation plan we were supposed to do.
- The fourth piece is what we call education and outreach toward the end of the process. So everyone has the timeline, we’re looking to have a draft plan to start going through and then get to the commission by fall. We hope to complete the SAG and TWIG processes by October/November with some drying ink on a plan. And we’ll start that conversation in front of the commission next January. I’ll be presenting that this January to the commission to make sure they’re all right with that, but that’s the timeframe–time’s ticking.
There will be another round of public outreach and input this spring and summer. It’ll look slightly different from just SAG and TWiG meetings because that input is 30 minutes. Once things are starting to solidify, we can hear from the public. After that, the input around the draft plan will be extensive with the Commission.
We have information that there have been reports of Mexican Gray wolves in the Chromo, Colorado area. We asked about how those reports will affect the introduction process. “We have not verified any wolves in southwest Colorado,” says DeWalt. “We work closely with New Mexico, and they pretty much know where all those Mexican wolves are, and they usually call us before we even know they’re close to the border. So if a Mexican wolf were to come that far north, we would work with New Mexico to take it back south. We get sporadic reports of wolf sightings, but it doesn’t affect anything until we confirm it by acquiring samples for DNA testing to determine how much wolf genetics are there. We make sure it’s not a hybrid or something like that. Few of the wolf reports we receive from around the state are confirmed.