The reintroduction of wolves is an important step to the ecological recovery of our ecosystem. Colorado Proposition 114 seeks to reintroduce the gray wolf to Colorado. They have been absent in the state for 74 years, but now voters will decide if they will make a return.
When settlers began to hunt bison, elk, and deer, the wolf populations that fed on them had to turn to livestock. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, once wolves began to kill off livestock on ranches, they were systematically eradicated from Colorado, with the last wolf killed in 1945. This was common in several other states as well. However, as populations have been reintroduced to the northern Rockies and southern desert states, conservationists say that Colorado is the next step to a full recovery of the gray wolf.
The proposition states that, if passed, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will create a plan for their reintroduction, which is set for 2023. Although the plan is dependent on whether the proposition is passed, we can look at other states as a model, specifically Yellowstone National Park. According to the park website, Yellowstone began to bring back wolves in 1994. Wolves were brought from Canada and relocated to Yellowstone and Central Idaho. The wolves were placed in acclimation enclosures then released.
By looking at Yellowstone it’s clear the benefits of their reintroduction. This is supported by the theory of Trophic Cascade, which is a change at the top of a food chain that changes the bottom of the food chain and the environment along with it, as stated by Sustainable Man. In Yellowstone, the reintroduction of wolves balanced the ecosystem which had suffered from heavy grazing due to the overpopulation of Deer and Elk. Wolf populations lowered deer populations leading to the forest, and grassland regrowth. That also led to several other species populations like beavers and bears to increase.
Similar results could happen in Colorado, which could especially aid in helping forests recover from an especially bad wildfire season. Rocky Mountain National Park and northern Colorado have especially suffered from forest fires, and are also prime places to release the wolves and could benefit and heal from wolves.
The main opponents of the proposal are ranchers, who fear wolves will kill off their livestock. However, if the wolves are placed and managed right that will be minimal. They are also worried that reintroduction is unnecessary. Wolves have been spotted around northern Colorado migrating naturally from Wyoming. But Wyoming allows the hunting of wolves, so for a substantial pack to travel to Colorado would be a serious challenge. In order for wolves to be established in Colorado, they need to be reintroduced and managed.
On Election Day, voters will decide on the future of gray wolves. They are an important part of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem and their return is crucial to restoring that ecosystem.
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