Colorado to pay rancher after wolf depredation, but will that be enough?

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The first report of wolf depredation by reintroduced wolves has been confirmed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife after an extensive investigation.

Now, the calf’s owner is due for compensation from the state, but some say that payment is not enough.

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On Tuesday morning, a landowner called to report a dead calf.

“The results of this investigation indicated wounds consistent with wolf depredation,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington said. “The field investigation found multiple tooth rake marks on the calf’s hindquarters and neck, and hemorrhaging under the hide, consistent with wolf depredation. Wolf tracks were also found nearby.”

In an email to FOX31, CPW also said: “The wolf or wolves involved were part of the 10 wolves that were reintroduced to Colorado in December 2023.”

A wolf runs from a cage as a group of men stand by
A wolf runs from a cage as a group of men stand by

For ranchers, wolf worries are about more than their livelihoods

For some ranchers, the fact it happened now came as a surprise.

“It’s crazy to think for most of us up here that it took this long to actually happen,” said Tim Ritschard, president of Middle Park Stockgrower;s Association.

Erin Karney, executive vice president of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, said it is also unexpected, given it is now the thick of calving season. But to Karney, it also means with one incident already reported, there could soon be more.

“A lot of the cows are calving and this is, you know, kind of the time, and they’re kind of easy prey for apex predators like wolves,” she said.

Now, many ranchers are making more frequent checks, knowing there are more predators to worry about.

“I guarantee you that every livestock producer is doing all they possibly can to protect their livestock, because that’s ultimately their livelihood, but it’s more than that,” Karney said.

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CPW has previously stated they will compensate ranchers and farmers for any livestock lost to a wolf, but ranchers say it is not about the monetary value of their animals.

“I actually have a couple pet cows,” Ritschard said. “Looking at my cows, some of these cows — I have like a 10-year-old cow. I mean, they’re part of the family.”

Looking to the future, ranchers said they hope they can keep their communication strong with CPW about where wolves are and what steps they can take to ensure they are keeping their livestock safe.

Wolf tracks in snow compared to a human hand
Wolf tracks in snow compared to a human hand

Some ranchers said they hope it will be enough.

“I think we all can sit in Denver or other metropolitan areas and say someone else can deal with that, it’s really cool that these animals are in the state. But it’s not only their livelihood, it’s not only livestock, but you know, it’s that fear that an apex predator is in their backyards,” Karney said.

CPW said they will continue to have staff follow up with producers in the area where the incident occurred and make sure they have the appropriate, non-lethal deterrents available.

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