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CPW provides gray wolf update at SMART hearing

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On Jan. 19, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced it will not release any more gray wolves until the end of December this year, as it has secured a source for up to 15 more wolves to be released as part of its reintroduction program.

According to the press release, “The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington will provide the wolves to be captured on Tribal land between December 2024 and March 2025.”

The press release further notes Tribal representatives will provide guidance to CPW on target packs, avoiding packs with known active chronic depredation behavior.

Top CPW leadership, including CPW Director Jeff Davis, received harsh criticism after the release in December, because the state agency had publicly stated before the release it would avoid releasing wolves with a depredation history.

However, five of the 10 wolves released were identified as members of packs involved in recent livestock depredations in Oregon. 

This discovery concerned local ranchers because research studies show once a wolf has killed or injured livestock, it becomes a learned behavior, leading to an increased risk the wolf will continue depredating.

It’s been over a month since the reintroduction of 10 wolves in Colorado and on Jan. 24, the state agency published activity data from the wolves released. 

According to CPW, “We published a map on our website which shows where collared wolves have been in the past month. This map will be updated with new information on a monthly basis, produced on the fourth Wednesday of every month and will reflect data for the prior month, give or take several days.”

But, CPW was careful to note just because the map indicates wolf activity in an area, it doesn’t mean wolves are in the entire watershed area or are there now.

Colorado lawmakers

bring the heat

During the 2024 Colorado State Measurements for Accountable, Responsive and Transparent Government Act (SMART) hearing held on Jan. 24, elected officials were very harsh with leaders from CPW and the Department of Natural Resources concerning their actions related to the recent gray wolf release. 

Elected officials demanded answers about why no one was warned before the wolves were released on Dec. 18, including landowners and elected officials, both local and statewide.

They questioned why wolves who were chronic depredators in Oregon were brought to Colorado, stating trust was lost with local ranchers and landowners because of how it was handled.

When Colorado State Sen. Dylan Roberts began questioning why wolves were chosen from packs in Oregon who had recent depredations, he reminded CPW they testified the wolves they were relocating wouldn’t have a history of depredation.

“I think sometimes people forget they are carnivores. There’s a fallacy if we were to go get wolves from wilderness where they have never seen livestock, they would never depredate on livestock,” Davis replied. “There is a difference between depredation and chronic depredation.”

“In communities where this has happened, there seems to be an extreme loss of trust and collaboration which used to exist between residents and CPW,” Roberts said. “And, of course, this is controversial. I agree with comments about keeping staff safe. But, there seems to be a disconnect between what was promised and what happened, and people lose trust when this happens.”

He continued, “I’ve heard from constituents of mine across my district, and I know others on the panel have as well, that they are going to close their gates. They don’t want to work with CPW officers anymore. They feel there was a directive sent from higher up that those CPW officers couldn’t talk to anybody about. They can’t talk to them about what the state is doing moving forward, and this is a concern.”

“We need local collaboration between private landowners, outfitters, elected and non-elected officials and your department,” he concluded.

Questioning continues

Colorado State Rep. Meghan Lukens followed Roberts questioning, asking for the definition of chronic depredation. Davis noted CPW would review other states with wolves and figure out their criteria for chronic depredation.

Following Lukens, Colorado State Rep. Richard Holtorf questioned CPW.

“For the record, your wolf release was a dismal failure for Colorado ranchers and for county commissioners and the communities where these wolves are now inhabiting, based on the map,” he said. “It will be nearly impossible for you to win back the trust of Colorado ranchers.”

“A wolf is an apex predator that wants to kill, and cattle and calves are an easy target. How will CPW win back producers’ trust?” he asked. “The fact you have to remind us a wolf is a carnivore is laughable. We saw the pictures of the wolf released and it’s exactly what we’re getting – a vicious animal that kills, in some cases for sport.”

He further explained CPW brought in wolves from Oregon who are known depredators.

“They came into Colorado knowing the taste of blood, and you have put every rancher in jeopardy. It’s your responsibility to vent that,” Lukens added.

As the hearing continued, Colorado State Sen. Byron Pelton asked the committee if anyone was thinking of the well-being of livestock and shared his background raising cattle and protecting livestock.

“It’s your income and your livelihood, but you don’t want to see them suffer,” Pelton said. “Are you going to allow ranchers to protect their livestock from being attacked?”

Davis replied, “We are going through this question right now with the attorney general.”

Colorado State Rep. Marc Catlin was up next to question the committee, asking CPW where they are going to place the next round of wolves.

Davis replied, “We have been in ongoing conversations with the Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association. We have two Tribes that are very concerned and paying attention to where those future releases will go.”

“Gunnison believes they are next,” Catlin stressed. “They are suffering from lack of trust something fierce. We need advance notice.”

Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Gibbs also fielded questions from state leaders, reporting they did not meet the expectations of the release.

“My sincere apologies for not getting it right,” he remarked. “We can learn from our mistakes and are doing an after-action review which is being finalized. We appreciate everyone’s feedback and are working with the agriculture community.”

To listen to the SMART Act committee hearing, visit

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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