Gray wolves (Canis lupus) once roamed the west. By the 1930’s, however, they had been annihilated, and most people were OK with that. Wolf reintroduction was not on most people’s minds.
By the 1970’s, however, public opinion began to change as conservation movements grew. Scientific opinion also changed in the favor of wolves. They stopped being seen as destructive “varmints.” Instead, they started to be viewed as essential parts of a healthy ecosystem. Wolf reintroduction began in earnest in the 1990’s with the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. That reintroduction, though controversial, was regarded as a success among conservationists.
Since that time most western states have either reintroduced wolves or are considering wolf reintroduction.
It has not been an easy road as two powerful lobbies are pitted against each other. “Wolf lovers” now include many if not most professional wildlife biologists. They are allied with conservation groups and a surprising large segment of the general public. Polls show majorities are generally in favor of reintroduction.
However, “wolf haters” also abound. They are closely associated with ranching, hunting and other traditional interests who fear wolves as a destructive force.
Recently, Colorado has been a flashpoint in the battle as the state has decided to embark on a wolf reintroduction program. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) intends to reintroduce some wolves as an experiment. They plan to do so by the end of 2023.
The plan was the result of a narrow victory in a general election supporting wolf reintroduction. USFWS says:
“The Service is now reviewing comments received from the 60-day public comment period and working to finalize the environmental impact statement and determination of a 10(j) rule. This process is anticipated to be completed before the end of 2023. The Service is continuing coordination with the state, Tribes, and local partners.”
Where the wolves will come from is a question. Wyoming apparently will not transplant wolves. Wolves do wander into Colorado and the CPW may try to help them thrive.
Neighboring. Wyoming may not be willing to send wolves if asked. Gov, Mark Goldon is on record saying he will not send any of the up to 75 wolves needed to Colorado. Goldon said Wyoming is carefully managing local wolves and experts don’t wish to disrupt that effort. Colorado may already have a pack of wanderers and expanding that toehold may be part of the answer. Other states may be asked but some wolf populations are under severe human threat.
Goldon said as much when he said translocation usually works out badly for the wolves. Wolves leaving Yellowstone can be shot immediately. In Oregon, poisoners have been at work and have yet to be caught. California has lost several packs to human cruelty toward wolves.
In Europe, Italy appears to be something of an exception in wolf hatred. This may be partly due to the explosion of the wild pig population and the hope that resurgent wolves in that Peninsula will dine on pork frequently. Italian wolves were persecuted but that persecution has ended and the population is rebounding.