Reintroduced Colorado wolf packs are killing local dogs

Reintroduced Colorado wolf packs are killing local dogs
Reintroduced Colorado wolf packs are killing local dogs

(Photo credit: Naturfoto Honal / Getty Images)

In Wyoming and Colorado, reports of wolf packs killing local dogs are pitting animal rights groups against rural ranchers in these Mountain West states.

According to Cowboy State Daily, Colorado’s North Park wolf pack was implicated in two dog deaths earlier this month. Unfortunately, wildlife experts say the situation is inevitable. “Simply put, wolves and domestic dogs don’t mix,” Said Dan Thompson, a large carnivore specialist for Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department. “We have documented several occurrences of wolves killing domestic dogs, including pets, those guarding livestock, and hunting hounds,” he continued.

In another article, Thompson explained how wolves will aggressively defend their territory from other canines. As such, he believed the recent attacks had similar motivations.  Unfortunately, the two most recent attacks are only the latest affecting North Park residents. The Coloradoan reported that as of January 19, 2023, “Colorado Parks and Wildlife [paid] $12,929.75 in compensation for wolf livestock depredations of five cows, two working cattle dogs, and one calf.”

Will this change public attitudes toward reintroducing wolves?

After 80 years, gray wolves are just beginning to return to Colorado. A voter-approved ballot measure set 2023 as the deadline for state officials to reintroduce wolves into western Colorado. For the moment, the effort is lauded as a necessary environmental initiative as well as a win for animal rights groups. 

However, the state’s vast ranchers and hunters have been certainly less welcoming. In neighboring Utah, for example, local politicians have been accused of spreading misleading information to sway public opinion toward wolves. 

For states in the Mountain West, the question is how to maintain ecological diversity while protecting the interests of local ranchers. In this area, Colorado is making an impressive effort to appease both sides. After a round of public hearings, the Parks and Wildlife Commission increased the amount paid to ranchers for wolf depredation. Incredibly, the new amount is $15,000 per animal.

Hopefully, Colorado and other states can find a way to effectively manage wolf populations and keep ranchers’ needs in mind. Whether or not wolves and livestock can peacefully coexist remains to be seen.

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