Bill making it harder for ranchers to be compensated for wolf kills dies in committee

Adam Baca, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s wolf conflict coordinator, checks on fladry, a non-lethal tool to prevent wolves from crossing fence lines.
Courtesy photo

A bill that would have required Colorado ranchers whose livestock was killed by wolves to prove they used non-lethal wolf deterrence measures to be eligible for state compensation died Monday in its first committee hearing. 

The House Agriculture Water and Natural Resources Committee rejected House Bill 1375 with a 9-4 vote. 

“The ranchers that are in my district and across the state of Colorado are extremely hardworking people who will do what needs to be done to protect their livestock,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, a Steamboat Springs Democrat who represents the northwest part of the state, when explaining her vote against the bill.

Rep. Tammy Story, an Evergreen Democrat and prime sponsor of House Bill 1375, said she brought the bill as a way to encourage coexistence among wolves and ranchers.

In 2023, Western Slope lawmakers from both parties brought a bill allocating $350,000 annually to a compensation fund providing up to $15,000 in reimbursement per animal killed or injured by a wolf or wolves. Under Proposition 114, the ballot measure that proposed reintroducing wolves, the state was required to create a fund for compensating ranchers.

“It is only equitable that livestock producers take responsibility for their safety and their assets in order to receive that compensation,” Story said. 

The bill would have also set aside an unspecified amount of funds to help ranchers pay for the non-lethal tools. Non-lethal deterrence tools include hanging flags, using flashing lights, blasting sounds and deploying guard dogs.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife released 10 gray wolves on Colorado’s Western Slope in December and January as part of the state’s voter-approved reintroduction efforts. In addition to those 10 wolves, two male wolves captured in the North Park area of Colorado in February 2023 have been fitted with collars and are being tracked by CPW. Since then, they have begun to spread throughout the state. 

Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, a Democrat from Glenwood Springs, was the only representative from the Western Slope to vote in favor of the measure.

“In my mind both sides are correct, we know that ranchers and farmers are hardworking and they are protecting their livelihoods. Also many of the people who testified in support are from my district as well,” Velasco said. “We are in a moment where we are losing many keystone species.”

Sen. Kevin Priola, D-Henderson, and Rep. Manny Rutinel, D-Commerce City, are also prime sponsors of the bill.

There have been no reports of wolves killing livestock since they were released.

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