Nick Rubley: Draining Elkhead, Part 2
To the editor:
I would like to talk about wolves. You may think that this has nothing to do with endangered fish, but it does. Let me explain.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced 15 wolves into the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. There are now an estimated 1,700 animals in five states, including Colorado. There was a reason man killed off the wolves: They will attack man. Park officials already have hunted a couple for attacking man in Yellowstone. I’ve been going to Yellowstone for the past 30 years, usually a week in September. I used to see big herds of elk on the west side of the park, and now I see family units, one enormous bull and whatever cows and little ones he can protect. I personally have not seen an elk in the Lamar Valley for 10 years.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife also reintroduced, in the early ’90s, river otters on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah. The otters have spread into the Yampa, and probably other rivers downstream, and now are making a good living in Dinosaur National Monument, I am assuming in the Yampa bench canyon (see Craig Daily Press, Sept. 12). Guess who lives in the Yampa bench? That’s right, the Colorado pikeminnow. Do you suppose those fun-loving otters ate a few pikeminnows? I hope so! I’ll bet at the time, it did not occur to Fish and Wildlife that they would spread or that they would eat endangered fish. The otters don’t care what kind of fish they eat. I wonder if this is the reason there are less endangered fish in the monument. Five years ago, I saw six adult otters up around Hayden on the Yampa. I also had a friend tell me he saw a pair of otters at Elkhead. Again, they released the wolves!
Once more they released the wolves in the form of smallmouth bass into Elkhead Reservoir, again in the early ’90s. They probably didn’t think the bass would escape Elkhead, get into the river and spread through the river system, but the bass did exactly that.
This all occurred after the pikeminnow was listed as endangered, (early or mid-’70s), except for the northern pike — they were here at about the same time as when the listing occurred.
If you are going to have wolves, you have to expect them to eat something: elk, endangered fish and, maybe with a little luck, the guys who are shocking the river.
The bass and the otters are well established in the river. Draining Elkhead will not control the wolves!
A copy of this letter, Parts 1 and 2, is going to be sent to the Moffat County commissioners and Gov. John Hickenlooper. I hope it does some good for the fishing in Moffat County!