DENVER (KDVR) — Few issues illustrate Colorado’s growing rural/urban divide as well as Proposition 114, which involves reintroducing gray wolves on the Western Slope.
A small number of populous urban counties voted relatively weakly in favor, overruling a majority of rural counties who voted strongly against it. Only one-fifth of Colorado’s counties voted in favor of the ballot measure that would restore gray wolves to the Colorado wilderness, and few of those counties are in the wilderness themselves.
In addition to Proposition 114 reintroducing the wolves, it will establish a fund to repay potential predation of livestock if approved.
The measure, backed by the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, has been met with strong opposition from some Colorado wildlife and agricultural concerns such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Colorado Farm Bureau.
Until now, gray wolf reintroduction was the exclusive domain of federal and state scientists rather than voters. Colorado’s ballot is the nation’s first of its kind.
Prop 114 has gained 50.3% of the Colorado vote – most of it from the populous areas surrounding Denver, however it still has not been declared as a victory.
Urban and suburban voters made up the overwhelming majority of Prop 114’s supporting votes.
They did so with an average 56.7% voting yes. The highest concentrations of supporting votes came from Boulder and Denver counties, which supported the measure 68% and 66%, respectively.
The counties that opposed Prop 114 voted more strongly against it than those who supported it – 67.69% on average for the 51 counties that opposed it.
The measure, if passed, introduces 50 gray wolves to a national population that has risen since wolves were deliberately reintroduced in 1995.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 4,400 wolves across the northern portions of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and 1,700 around Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and Washington and north-central Utah.
Ranchers and hunting outfitters raise complaints of the impact wolves have both on cattle operations and the availability of hunting tags. Numbers support some of these claims, though wolves account for small percentages of overall predation deaths.
U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that in 2015 4.9% of predator-related cattle deaths came from wolves. Yellowstone National Park wolves kill an estimated 2,100 elk per year.