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News / Nation & World

Washington’s Colville Tribes to supply wolves to Colorado

Up to 15 animals will be relocated in 2025 to aid program

By Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post
Published: January 19, 2024, 9:00pm

DENVER — Native American tribes in Eastern Washington will supply up to 15 wolves to Colorado next winter under an agreement announced Friday that marks a major step forward for the state’s reintroduction efforts.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will allow state wildlife officials to capture wolves on the tribes’ land from December through March 2025. Last month, CPW released the first 10 wolves, captured in neighboring Oregon, as part of a plan to reintroduce up to 50 of the apex predators to the state in coming years.

“We are grateful to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation for working with our agency on this critical next step in reintroducing gray wolves in the state,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Jeff Davis said in a news release.

Wildlife officials have decided not to release more wolves in Colorado this winter, according to the news release. Under the state’s Wolf Restoration and Management Plan, officials could have released five more wolves this season, on top of the 10 last month.

Instead, they will wait until December to “allow the agency to assess the releases in December (2023) and let CPW staff adjust to any increased workload of having wolves on the ground in Colorado,” the release states.

Waiting also will allow for additional resources to become available for the support of ranchers’ efforts to minimize conflicts with wolves, as proposed in Gov. Jared Polis’ budget for the next fiscal year.

“After an incredibly successful first release of wolves from Oregon last month,” Davis said, “our focus will be on refining our internal processes, continuing the work we’re already doing to bolster our staff expertise and honing our notification structure so the public is well informed regarding release efforts.” Colorado Parks and Wildlife also will try to balance “the need for the safety and security of staff and (the) gray wolves.”

Davis apologized last week for a lack of notice to ranchers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners about the first release of wolves in the state. Wildlife officials and the governor released five wolves on Dec. 18 — the first wolves released into the state as part of a controversial voter-mandated reintroduction effort. Five more wolves were released over the following week.

Oregon was the first state to grant Colorado permission to relocate its wolves. Leaders from several other Western states — including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — said they would not provide wolves to Colorado, citing controversy in their own communities.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife plans to release between 10 and 15 wolves a year over the next three to five years to create a self-sustaining wolf population in the state.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation consists of 12 tribes residing on a 1.4 million-acre reservation northwest of Spokane.

“The Colville Tribes is very pleased to partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to restore the wolf population in Colorado,” Jarred-Michael Erickson, chairman of the tribes, said in the news release announcing the collaboration.