Group pledges to pay ranchers’s losses if wolves return to Colorado |

Group pledges to pay ranchers’s losses if wolves return to Colorado

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

DENVER ” An environmental group has offered to help pay ranchers for livestock killed by wolves if Rocky Mountain National Park decides to reintroduce the predators to reduce its elk population.

Washington-based Defenders of Wildlife has paid more than $500,000 to ranchers in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico for confirmed losses to wolves and bears. The group also has spent $470,000 on projects to keep wolves away from livestock. It pledges similar support in Colorado.

“No matter how and when wolves come to Colorado, we will commit these funds,” said Jonathan Proctor, who heads the group’s Denver office.

“We hope to save wolves by preventing conflicts in the first place,” he said.

Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Vaughan Baker said the group’s offer would be taken into account when a decision is made.

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The park is considering introducing wolves to help kill elk and drive them from areas where their browsing has damaged habitat for songbirds, butterflies and beavers. The elk, estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 head, are also blamed for property damage outside the park.

Some doubt managers could keep wolves in the 226,000-acre park once they are introduced.

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association opposes any reintroduction of wolves in the state, said Terry Frankhauser, an association executive vice president.

Wolves were wiped out in Colorado by the 1930s after ranchers, government agents and others shot, trapped and poisoned the predator.

The state Division of Wildlife developed a wolf management plan in May after a lone wolf traced to Yellowstone National Park was found dead along Interstate 70 in the mountains west of Denver. The animal was wearing a radio collar.

The state’s management plan calls for leaving migrating wolves alone unless they attack livestock or harm other wildlife.

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