SJCA’s wildlife program is going strong, focusing on wolf restoration and bighorn sheep management.
Wolves: Planning Process on Track
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is well on its way to creating a comprehensive management plan for the restoration of wolves to the state. Wildlife staff will be presenting a draft plan to the Colorado Wildlife Commission in December, and public comment will be invited early in 2023.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife appointed a Stakeholder Advisory Group, focused on social and economic issues, of which SJCA’s Wildlife Program Manager, Gary Skiba, is a member. The advisory group offered recommendations towards the overall management plan.
Wolf advocates have continuing concerns about the plan. One of the biggest concerns is that the plan will authorize the establishment of a recreational (public) hunting season for wolves. Most wolf biologists agree that recreational hunting of wolves is unnecessary as wolves tend to manage their own population levels, and any problems with livestock depredation or unacceptable impacts on big game populations are better dealt with by targeted agency removal.
A related concern is the establishment of a maximum population size. There is no way to predict what impacts might occur from wolves in Colorado until they’re on the ground in substantial numbers, and thus no way to determine a maximum number. Stay tuned for more on the wolf planning process, which will include your opportunity to weigh in on the plan early next year. The state is still on track to meet its statutory deadline to reintroduce wolves by the end of 2023. We should soon have a better idea of the initial reintroduction location as well.
Bighorns: The Battle Continues
Domestic sheep carry diseases that can be devastating to bighorn populations. As our state animal and an iconic species of Colorado’s mountains, we should be doing all we can to protect and expand bighorns. Both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service manage domestic sheep allotments that can be problematic for bighorns. Domestic sheep too close to bighorns increases the possibility of disease transmission. There is some evidence that herds in the Weminuche Wilderness have declined recently, and while the degree of decline and the possible causes are unknown, disease is suspected.
SJCA will continue to work with its partners to create management plans that protect our bighorns and will also continue to lobby Colorado Parks and Wildlife to be more aggressive in their recommendations to the federal agencies.