CPW stakeholder group has not found consensus on all wolf management issues | CraigDailyPress.com

CPW stakeholder group has not found consensus on all wolf management issues

The CPW stakeholder group was able to reach consensus on most of the issues in the wolf impact management plan, with the exception of how to deal with lethal takes in regards to wolf interaction with wild horses, pets, and hunting dogs.
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A stakeholder group, which has been meeting for the past 15 months to deliberate certain aspects of the state’s wolf reintroduction, plans to make recommendations to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission in August. 

Julie Shapiro of the Keystone Policy Center presented a preliminary summary from the stakeholder and technical workgroup discussions at the CPW commission meeting on Friday, July 22.

She said the impact-based management report will recap about six months of discussion that focused on how to handle problems caused by wolves, and the group was able to reach consensus on many issues within the proposed management plan. 

There are some issues the stakeholder group was unable to reach consensus on, which Shapiro explained is the result of fundamental differences in philosophies about the relationship between wolves and the surrounding environment, including other animals in the landscape. 

The impact management plan recognizes that having wolves in the area produces positive and negative impacts, and the stakeholder workgroup discussed how to handle different scenarios that were presented as concerns from public comments, as well as other recommended considerations. 

“It’s very challenging to write general prescriptive rules for management as so much is context dependent — what works in one situation may not be effective in another,” said Eric Odell, species conservation program manager. “When there are impacts, there are a variety of tools that can be used. As you’ve heard through these discussions, it is important to keep as many tools in the toolbox as possible.” 

These tools include lethal and non-lethal methods, and Odell emphasized that no single technique is predictably effective to minimize conflict and risk. The plan states that lethal management should not be the first line of defense. However, there may be situations where lethal management may be used first to support effective management. 

“Management is not synonymous with lethal control,” Odell said. “There is a whole suite of tools available to use when implementing wolf management.”

From the beginning, the stakeholder and the technical workgroups agreed that lethal management is a critical tool in the management of wolves, and the management plan will recommend lethal measures be used reactively after other tools have been deployed and found to be unsuccessful.

The management plan also identifies three phases of reintroduction where the wolves’ status will be endangered (phase 1), threatened (phase 2) or delisted (phase 3). The phases are tied to population thresholds and meant to be descriptive. They are not seen as objectives to be met by the plan. 

There was consensus from the stakeholder group that across all three phases, no direct wolf management should be necessary where wolves are present but not causing any problems related to livestock, other wildlife species, domestic animals or humans. 

Odell pointed out that not all wolves are going to be involved in conflict, and a majority of the wolves brought into Colorado will likely not be involved in any type of conflict. Based on studies, Odell estimated that only 17% of a wolf pack is involved in conflict over the course of a year.

Odell acknowledged that where wolves and livestock share the landscape, there will be some conflict, which is one of the primary concerns of having wolves Moffat County. There were several representatives from the Northwest Region and Yampa Valley to express these concerns during the public comment period at the July 22 meeting. 

Interactions with livestock 

In regards to interactions with livestock where wolves are caught in the act of biting, wounding, grasping or killing livestock or working dogs, the stakeholder group conceded that both lethal and nonlethal methods should be allowed. 

The group would encourage the use of nonlethal tools before lethal measures are taken. Nonlethal conflict-minimization practices include practices such as a fladry, or a rope mounting system that’s put on fencing to deter wolves from crossing the fence, range riders to monitor and herd livestock, and livestock guardian dogs. 

Potentially injurious hazing techniques, such as rubber buckshots or rubber slugs, will also be allowed to deter wolves from attacking livestock during any phase, whether the wolves are just present or caught in the act. 

When wolves are in an endangered or threatened status, lethal measures are allowed by state or federal agents and by landowners with a limited duration permit requiring proof of an attack. 

Limited duration permits will require reporting and an investigation demonstrating evidence to justify the lethal act. Lethal means are allowed for wolves in a delisted status without the limited duration permit, but will still require reporting to justify the act. 

For wolves caught in the act of chasing livestock, the same lethal and nonlethal measures will be recommended with the same reporting and permitting requirements for lethal takes. However, 14 members of the stakeholder group members supported or did not object and one member objected. 

The same nonlethal measures are suggested following the confirmed depredation or killing of livestock, and lethal takes will be permitted with a limited duration permit across all phases. Lethal take permits will only be issued if state or federal agencies do not have the resources to implement lethal ground-control actions. 

There was also one member of the stakeholder group who opposed the lethal take allowances following confirmed depredation. 

Relocation of wolves is not a recommended measure for livestock interactions in any scenario or phase, as it would likely result in problems in the area wolves are moved to. 

Interactions with other wildlife

The stakeholder group also considered management for wolf interactions with wild ungulate populations, where the ungulate populations were significantly below objectives in a geographic area.

This was one area where the stakeholder group could not reach consensus, and will not make a recommendation to the commission, though under current state regulations, lethal takes would not be allowed for endangered or protected wolves. 

Odell said that wolf impacts to other species like sage grouse and Colorado lynx are rare, but this was another area where the stakeholder group did not reach consensus and will not be making a recommendation about lethal management. 

Other situations 

The stakeholder group conceded that lethal takes are allowed in situations of human safety, by any person in self-defense, and allowed by state or federal agents following an attack on a human. 

The group also conceded that wolves found denning within municipal boundaries or in areas of high population density can be removed and relocated. 

There was no consensus on how to handle lethal takes of wolves who attack, wound or kill domestic pets or hunting dogs, so the stakeholder group will not be making a recommendation on whether to allow lethal takes in these scenarios.

Under state law, lethal takes are not allowed with wolf interactions between pets or hunting dogs. This was a topic was was brought up through public comments, but a finalized impact management plan may stay consistent with gaming law and not allow lethal takes in these scenarios.

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