Celebrate National Wolf Week with your local headwaters Sierra Club group | SummitDaily.com

Celebrate National Wolf Week with your local headwaters Sierra Club group

One thing missing from Summit County's wild places is the howl of wolves. At least that's what the local and state Sierra Clubs believe.

As National Wolf Week approaches (Oct. 15-21), the local Headwaters Group of the Sierra Club, which spans over Summit, Eagle and Grand counties, will be hosting a series of events to celebrate.

This is the 21st year National Wolf Awareness Week has been celebrated, since the year wolves were reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park.

"Really, it's a year-round campaign to bring wolves back to Colorado. To highlight the importance of wolves in our ecosystems — that they belong here and are needed," said Delia Malone, wildlife chair for the Colorado Sierra Club.

In Colorado, and throughout the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, wolves have been a part of the ecosystem, which has evolved with them.

"Our beautiful landscape and diversity in landscape is due to the wolf. There are interactions that are essential to the beauty of life," said Malone. "Those interactions are what make ecological systems healthy."

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In wilderness areas, we see plenty of moose, elk, deer and bear, yet since 1944 there have been no wolves in the state of Colorado.

"As a Colorado native and lover of the outdoors, I've always felt that the wolf, the howl of the wolf, epitomizes the wilderness," said Kent Abernethy, chair of the local Headwaters Group for the Colorado Sierra Club.

"I'm a big proponent of wilderness and wilderness areas. It's always seemed to me that something is missing," he said.

Malone and Abernethy agree in crediting the livestock, agriculture, hunting and ranching industries for the hindrances in reintroducing the native wolf to its home in the Colorado Rockies.

"Wolves were vilified as if they were some kind of evil critter that we need to get rid of, but they exemplify what humans value: loyalty, dedication to family, taking care of each other and working together," said Malone.

There are models of success in the Northern Rockies with wolf populations that have been reintroduced without incident.

"What's neat is, we have models to look at. Wolves are now in Montana, Oregon, Wyoming and Idaho. They have implemented some good practices there to live and ranch cooperatively with the wildlife," said Abernethy.

Coexistence strategies have been wildly successful in greatly diminishing conflicts or eliminating conflicts altogether in Yellowstone National Park, for example, where there have been zero incidents thus far with visitors to the park.

"Myths are ingrained in our culture. The ranchers in Colorado haven't experienced wolves, but continue the myths. They are going off of what they have heard, not what is known to be true scientifically," said Malone.

In the places wolves have been reintroduced, there has been a flourishing so far in biological diversity. The wolves keep other animals moving and bring balance back to the levels of predator and prey in the Rockies.

"The myths have to be debunked. People still think 'Little Red Riding Hood' and the big bad wolf, but what science has shown us, is that they are essential," Malone said.

And deflating the myths that continue surfacing is what National Wolf Week aims to do. Local and state Sierra clubs are bringing the pros and cons, history and facts to the public through a series of events around Summit County.

Over the next week, become educated by learning the misconceptions and understanding the steps needed for restoration and reintroduction.

There are three events the public is invited to take part in.

On Sunday, Oct. 15, at 10:30 a.m. there will be an educational hike with Delia Malone, which will take hikers around the Keystone Gulch area. On the hike, participants will learn how beavers and wolves shape landscapes and ecosystems. Insight will be provided into the connections that have created the diversity of life in the Rockies.

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 5:30 p.m. there will be an opportunity for the public to ask questions of the local Headwaters Group while sipping beers at Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge.

Lastly, on Friday, Oct. 20, there will be a "Colorado Needs Wolves" film series that continues the celebration of wolves and wolf-education. At Breckenridge's CMC campus the local Headwaters Group of the Colorado Sierra Club will be hosting a film block, which starts at 7 p.m.

The feature film, "Living With Wolves," follows Jim and Jamie Dutcher's extraordinary experiences living with the Sawtooth wolf pack for six years.

There will be exclusive footage in this Emmy-nominated film that reveals the innermost details of pack life, and how these elusive, intelligent and powerful creatures interact with man.

The film series also includes four shorts: "Big, Not Bad," by the Endangered Species Coalition, "The Chorus of Colorado," "Meet the Real Wolf," and "Canis Lupis Colorado," the last three all by Rocky Mountain Wolf Project.

A 15-minute Q&A with Delia Malone will give the audience an opportunity to ask questions and further their learning.

The evening's films are free with a suggested donation of $5 to help defray costs. For those that wish to find more information about the local Sierra Club or National Wolf Week, visit SierraClub.com/Colorado/Headwaters.

IF YOU GO:

What: National Wolf Week Celebration

When: Sunday Oct. 15 through Saturday, Oct. 21

Where: Various locations around Summit County

More Information: Participate in National Wolf Week and learn about the history of wolves, their benefits to Rocky Mountain ecosystems and the effort to reintroduce them to the North American Rockies with educational guided hikes, a wolf discussion over beer and an exclusive film showing and Q&A. For details, visit SierraClub.org/Colorado/Headwaters.

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