Public Comments on Colorado Prop 114 Introducing Wolves
I wasn’t able to attend the Colorado Prop 114 Introducing Wolves meeting but I listened carefully to the public commentary on 2/7/2023. One after another, western slope residents stood to voice their opposition to the reintroduction of wolves to their part of the state. I thought most of the opposition would be from ranchers but was surprised to find the majority of opposition was coming from “outfitters”. I had to listen for a while before learning that “outfitter” is a fancy euphemism for “hunting guide”. These individuals profit by leading hunters many from out of state, into the woods to kill elk and deer.
Too Much Focus on What Will Be Lost
I quickly noticed that the entire group was focused only on what would be lost without considering what could be gained. They were of course concerned for the loss of their livestock that is allowed to graze on forest service land, and for all the elk and deer that might be killed by the wolves. Universally they all fear that their entire way of life will be destroyed by the wolves. One hunter lamented that the wolves would “kill the elk calves before they even had a chance to live”. While this may be true it was left unmentioned that wolves kill the weaker and sicker members of the pack, ultimately leaving the her stronger, “outfitters” on the other hand bring in out of state hunters to kill the finest and strongest members of the herd, ultimately weakening the herd.
Furthermore, the finest of herd are selfishly killed by hunters just when they are most valuable to the wildlife watching and ecotourism industry, thus depriving the 95% who don’t hunt and the joy of viewing and photographing these majestic animals. As far as I know there are no studies to indicate in dollars, an estimated loss in revenue from the killing of the best of the herd. Also, if these “outfitters” do decide to adapt their business to the ecotourism and wildlife watching industry, they are ultimately robbing themselves of future revenue.
Only a couple of commentators provided input on what might be gained by the presence of wolves in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Interestingly, this publication by Colorado State University indicates that the number of elk harvested in surrounding states is largely unaffected by the presence of wolves. Additionally, this study by NPR finds that hunting is on the decline, with only 5% of Americans showing any interest in the sport, if you want to call it that. The study also indicates that funding for conservation efforts is at risk because of the decline in participation. So even without wolves, the “outfitters” way of life appears to going the way of the Model T and the typewriter.
Colorado has also engaged in the despicable practice of forcing non hunters to purchase hunting licenses to access wildlife areas rather than create a discounted special enthusiast permit of some kind that would allow photographers to “hunt” wildlife without having to violate their conscience by being forced to fund trophy hunting.
Some residents feared that wolves would be killing children despite the lack of evidence for such events. This paper by the International Wolf Center shows that wolf attacks on humans are very rare. Another study in Yellowstone indicates that people are much more likely to be injured on the roadways than out on the trails with the wolves.
Irrational Hatred of the Species
I also noticed an irrational hatred of the species and predators in general, with one man calling them the devil himself. This is the same hatred that almost resulted in their extinction in the first place. Another communicated online his hatred of the species for their method of hunting which resulted in the suffering of the prey itself and the loss of game calves due to their inability to defend themselves.
Of course there is never any mention of the suffering caused by rifle and bow hunters who don’t make a clean kill. It is common in the mountain region to hear of wounded animals walking around with arrows sticking out of them. One deer that I know of had an arrow in his eye, while a bull elk was struggling to get around with one leg nearly blown off by an errant bullet.
At least the wolves are going to finish the job when they wound an animal. Also the wolves will assure that the animals left suffering by incompetent hunters will be dispatched more quickly. And make no mistake, many of the wanna be Davy Crockett’s of the world are incompetent at best, regularly shooting at anything that moves including people’s pets and one woman standing in her driveway a couple of years ago. I’m sure Colorado would benefit by replacing this kind of tourist roaming our mountains with a different kind of sportsman, especially with the surging interest in outdoor sports such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and mountain biking.
A New Way of Thinking
The world is changing, and so is the demographic of visitors to our beautiful Mountains. One study in the Yellowstone area shows surrounding communities benefiting by sums in the millions of dollars from wolf watching tourism alone. Coloradans would do well to learn the lessons of the Yellowstone Reintroduction and adapt to the changing times. More and more people want access to forest service land and maybe it’s time to recognize that fact. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider whether grazing permits should be allowed on forest and at all. Perhaps land owners in the mountains can learn to adapt to the visitors wanting to enjoy the mountains. If you can adapt, if you can accept the flood of new visitors who will be appearing with their cameras and high powered lenses instead of high power rifles, you have the possibility of becoming rich beyond your wildest imaginations.
I’m sure it was considered and the forest service has good reason for not placing the wolves in Rocky Mountain National Park, but I question the wisdom of introducing them to an area where they are so hated. Capturing images of wolves in the wild has been a powerful desire of mine for decades and I would love to be able to see them in Rocky Mountain National Park, as I am sure many others would. There are already too many elk in the park and without hunting, elk have no predators to keep their numbers under control. It just seems like the park is the perfect place for them to thrive and to be observed and loved by millions of wolf fans. I urge the park service to reconsider where they are going to introduce the new packs. I would like to see Rocky Mountain National Park as the new home for the wolves surrounded by at least a 20 mile safety zone where the wolves would continue to enjoy full endangered species protections.
In addition, I urge that there be no 10j specification for the new wolves. There are enough “gun accidents” during hunting season already and 10j will just encourage more “accidents”. In fact I contend that in the modern era there are far too many people enjoying the mountains and trails for guns to be safe at all near our parks. I think every effort should be made to discourage hunting tourism while at the same time maximizing other types of recreational tourism. If new back country permit types need to be implemented to cover the expense of managing our parks then so be it.
Furthermore, I voice my opinion against a phase four trophy hunting rule. Studies have shown that trophy hunting of wolves does not result in fewer livestock or pet predation, in fact the opposite is true. The death of a senior member of a pack sends the more inexperienced wolves into disarray, resulting in a greater likelihood of predation.
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