DENVER (KDVR) — On their ranch in Jackson County, Don and Kim Gittleson woke up to a gruesome sight Sunday morning.
One of their Angus calves, barely recognizable, had been torn apart by a wolf.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed the wolf kill on Tuesday, marking the first one in decades, according to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
“It’s one of those things where you wish you weren’t in that situation,” Don Gittleson said. “That’s what you wish.”
Gittleson said he’s left with few options to prevent it from happening again. Harming a wolf for any reason other than self-defense remains illegal in Colorado. In 2020, Colorado voters approved the reintroduction of the gray wolf, but the state is still sorting through how that will look.
The wolf or wolves responsible for this kill likely belong to a small pack known to be living in that portion of the state.
“In the state of Colorado right now, I’m not supposed to harass the wolves,” Don Gittleson said. “That’s the situation we’re in, and people don’t quite understand that.”
It remains unclear if the state will allow lethal or non-lethal tactics to protect livestock once reintroduction occurs.
CJ Mucklow and the Colorado State University Regional Extension office are researching those results in other states and planning to present their findings to ranchers at a February workshop.
“There’s a compensation program and rules being written as we speak,” Mucklow said. “So there’s a lot of unknowns right now of how ranchers will be allowed to manage wolves in the future.”
Mucklow said certain states allow ranchers to shoot wolves, while others require hazing tactics.
“There’s some efforts of creating scare tactics for wolves that have shown some effect,” he said. “There are things out there, lethal and non-lethal, that have shown to be effective in some situations.”
Don Gittleson said the state needs to make those decisions quickly and fears the wolves will return to his ranch now that they’ve made a successful kill.
“What’s going on right now is we have two mature animals teaching their offspring how to hunt and what to hunt,” he said. “Because I’m not supposed to be hazing these animals or chasing them away, I can’t keep them away from the cows.”