CSU provides educational resources on potential restoration of wolves in Colorado

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — In November, Colorado residents will have the ability to vote on a ballot initiative that calls for the proposed reintroduction of gray wolves to the state.

Proposition 107 is a citizen-initiated measure that would direct the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop and oversee a science-based plan to restore wolves to the western part of the state.

Although wolves have not been reintroduced to Colorado, they have already been spotted in several parts of the state.

In early 2020, a pack of wolves was spotted and confirmed to be living in Moffat County.

In the summer of 2019, a lone wolf was also spotted and confirmed near North Park.

Authorities believe the wolves likely migrated from a nearby state, such as Wyoming, where they were reintroduced 25 years ago.

Colorado State University and Extension staff have produced and published educational materials about possible wolf restoration to ensure the public is informed.

The educational resources include 12 information sheets on topics that include wolf biology, wolves and livestock, disease, human and pet safety, big game and hunting and ecological effects and economics.

Additionally, the public can view this list of frequently asked questions with answers.

Kevin Crooks, a professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and director of the new Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence, helped lead the development of these educational materials.

“As Colorado’s only land-grant institution, CSU is uniquely positioned to provide science-based information on the subject,” said Crooks. “The educational materials have undergone extensive review by scientists within and outside CSU, including world experts on wolves.”

The center Crooks leads is “focused on integrating science, education and outreach to minimize conflict and facilitate coexistence between people and predators.”

In addition to wolves, the center is also tracking growing conflicts with urban black bears and coyotes, polar bears in energy fields in Alaska, lions and cattle keepers in East Africa, and ranchers in systems with predators in the United States.

“Science-based information provided from this team is critical to aid in policy development around wildlife and public lands,” said Ashley Stokes, associate vice president for Engagement and Extension at CSU.

Stokes believes resources are important for people who vote in order to better understand the issues surrounding potential reintroduction of wolves and the impacts on ecological systems, agricultural producers and local communities.

Rebecca Niemiec, assistant professor in the Department of Human Dimension of Natural Resources at CSU, led research studies on public perspectives and media coverage of the wolf restoration issue in Colorado.

“One thing we have found from our social science research is that the public has a diversity of beliefs about the potential positive and negative impacts of wolves,” explained Niemiec. “Some of these beliefs are supported by ecological and social science research, while some of them are not. Our hope is that with these educational materials, we can facilitate more productive, science-based discussions about wolf reintroduction and management.”

John Sanderson directs the Center for Collaborative Conservation at CSU and has helped direct the scientific review process and worked with partners to produce the educational materials.

“The topic of wolves is uniquely contentious,” Sanderson said. “If wolves are part of Colorado’s future, we need an inclusive process of creating policy and making decisions that builds trust and identifies mutually acceptable solutions among people with different perspectives.”

Over the last few decades, public surveys have suggested support for wolf reintroduction from the majority of Colorado residents.

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