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Adoption of wolf plan called incredible

Cliff Thompsoneagle county correspondent
** FILE **A gray wolf is shown in this undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A taskforce creating a plan to manage gray wolves that stray into Oregon is recommending that the predators be allowed to establish in the state, but that ranchers be allowed to shoot them on sight on private land if they attack livestock. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, File)
AP | U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE

AVON Colorados Wildlife Commission Thursday afternoon adopted preliminary plans for what biologists have been saying for years wolves will be moving into Colorado from surrounding states on their own, and it needs to prepare.Wolves from Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho are expected to migrate into Colorado some have already reached the state. The commission adopted recommendations from a 14-member citizens committee consisting of environmentalists, ranchers and biologists for dealing with the consequences of individual migrating wolves. The recommendations are not without urgency.Last fall a female wolf from a pack introduced to Yellowstone National Park was run over and killed on I-70 just 30 miles west of Denver. Wildlife experts say the states largest elk herd, in the Flat Tops Wilderness and surrounding area just west and north of Eagle County, could be a magnet for wolves.This apex predator thats listed as endangered by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service weighs 80 to 120 pounds, hunts in social packs and preys mainly on deer, elk and to a lesser degree, domestic livestock. It was wiped out in Colorado more than 70 years ago by hunting, trapping and poisoning. We know were going to have wolves here, said Bonnie Kline, a member of the Wolf Working Group and the Colorado Wool Growers Association. Kline was quick to add livestock producers dont want wolves here, but that it Makes sense to have a plan.

Managing wolves may be a more a case of managing how people react to wolves preying on livestock, deer and elk. What committee members and wildlife managers want to avoid is vigilante justice shooting, shoveling and shutting up when wolves prey on livestock. Instead, they hope to create regulations that livestock producers can follow for addressing how wolves can be managed. Were kind of in the twilight zone, said committee member Jean Stetson about what ranchers can do about wolves threatening their livestock. Big Bad Wolf?Its about myths the slathering vicious wolf, said Gary Skiba, a biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Wolves are a polarizing issue.There have been some documented attacks on humans by wolves, Skiba said, but theyre rare.One of the keys will be a public education campaign about wolves, and also how to pay for monitoring and managing them, committee members said. But where the money will come from, remains in question. Unlike the management other wildlife, which is funded by hunting and fishing license and other fees, wolves shouldnt be funded by sportsmen, the committee recommended.Also unanswered is what individual livestock owners will be able to do if they find a wolf or wolves preying on livestock. Those recommendations are being developed by the working group and by the Division of Wildlife.Adoption of the recommendations of the committee doesnt exactly roll out the red carpet for the so-called charismatic carnivore, said Bruce McCloskey, director of the Division of Wildlife, but it is a significant step nonetheless.To get cattlemen and wool growers to agree wolves can be here if theyre not causing trouble is meaty, he said. Its incredible that the group was able to put aside their differences.While the unanimous adoption of the nine-person Wildlife commission is a first step in acknowledging the predators presence in the state, old taboos remain. The wildlife commission still opposed any wolf reintroduction efforts and Colorado still has an anachronistic $2 per wolf bounty on the books that can only be removed by the Colorado Legislature.Wyoming gyrationsBut Rob Edward of the Sinapu, a carnivore restoration organization, who was also on the working committee, said hes cheered by adoption of the recommendations.The door is cracked open, he said. Colorado is preparing to approach the wolf debate with an open mind unlike the contentious polarized debate of our brethren in other states have taken. We must open it wide to ensure that we’ve met our obligation as stewards.”Wildlife Commissioner Rick Enstrom agreed with Edward about the committees unanimous decision.We got it done without the polarizing nuclear event and the Wyoming gyrations, he said. Bitter negotiations over wolf management have predominated wildlife management policies in Colorados neighbor to the north.In Yellowstone National Park, where wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, there are now 400 or more of the predators. The packs have helped restore the ecosystem to health, Edward said. Theyve kept big game animals on the move and prevented them from herding in river bottoms, allowing vegetation there to regenerate. That in turn has allowed birds and other small game to proliferate, he said.Wolves are so important to the ecosystem, he said, adding that they also prey on coyotes and help bring that predators numbers into balance.Adopting the recommendation of the committee could begin to pave the way for state management of the carnivore that now is under federal protection, but being eyed for de-listing to a threatened species in certain areas. But the state/federal management issue remains up in the air following a lawsuit over wolf management in Oregon.The Wolf Working committee will continue to meet and develop additional recommendations to the Wildlife Commission about wolf management.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.On the WebWolf Management Plan http://www2.merid.org/graywolf/comments.phpWhat to do about wolves?The following are some of Wolf Working committees recommendations: The Division of Wildlife should allow a wolves in Colorado, as long as the tools, flexibility and funding are available to help prevent and manage conflicts with humans, livestock and wild ungulates (such as deer and elk). The Division of Wildlife and federal agencies should work with livestock producers in potential problem areas. The public should kept informed, involved and educated. Ranchers should be alerted to wolf pack presence. There should be outreach with livestock producers on how to avoid depredation and report problems. Over time, wolves should be brought into the Divisions existing management for other carnivores, such as black bears and mountain lions. The Division should work with other state and federal agencies in surveying wolf occurrence and status, and work closely with counties and federal agencies to achieve a timely and appropriate management response to livestock predation. The Division should operate a wolf damage fund within the Colorado Game Damage program, but the funds should not come from sportsmens dollars and should not encroach upon other game damage payment programs. The Division should manage wolves so that livestock producers and sportsmen do not bear the cost of having wolves present in Colorado.


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