State lawmakers introduce bill to reintroduce wolverines to Colorado

Posted at 8:25 PM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-04 22:31:56-05

DENVER — State lawmakers on Monday introduced a bipartisan bill to reintroduce wolverines to Colorado.

Wolverines are not wolves. Instead, they are the largest species of weasel.

The animal was all but wiped out in the early 1900s from poisoning by ranchers who were trying to kill bears, mountain lions and wolves. Today there are only about 300 left in the lower 48 states.

Senate Bill 24-171, which is sponsored by Senators Perry Will (R) and Dylan Roberts (D) and Representatives Barbara McLachlan (D) and Tisha Mauro (D), would allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife to begin a reintroduction process. Part of that process includes adopting rules for compensating livestock owners who suffer losses due to the wolverine.



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The North American wolverine received federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in November 2023. Plans to reintroduce the species in Colorado had been in the works for years but were put on hold while the state waited for the protected status ruling. In a statement to Denver7 in December 2023, CPW said, "We're evaluating what the decision means for us. It's been an agency goal for a few years to reintroduce wolverines."

“Bringing wolverines back will be a huge win for Colorado’s wildlife and wildlands,” said Stefan Ekernas, director of Colorado Field Conservation at Denver Zoo in a statement. “Denver Zoo supports reintroduction efforts for wolverines that proactively engage communities and stakeholders to unite Coloradoans in bringing this native species back home.”

Wolverines need a lot of snow and high altitude to survive. According to the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Wild, Colorado has the "largest area of unoccupied habitat for wolverines — an estimated 7 million acres, representing 20 percent of all the habitat in the lower 48."

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is all in on reintroduction.

"The governor continues to join so many Coloradans who share his enthusiasm for reintroducing the native wolverine, last spotted in 2012 in our state, to better restore ecological balance in wild Colorado areas," a spokesperson for Polis said in a statement to Denver7 in December 2023.

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But not everyone is on board. The Wolverine Foundation, a nonprofit organization comprised of wildlife scientists with a common interest in the wolverine, says "not so fast."

The foundation argues that reintroduction is expensive and traumatic to the individual animals relocated. It also claims reintroduction is unnecessary because the wolverine population is spreading by itself, as proven by a single wolverine that was spotted in Colorado a decade ago.

"My thought is, why not watch this? We want to see expansion happen. We want to bring the wolverine to Colorado because we (humans) want it. It's probably going to get here on its own," said Jeff Copeland from The Wolverine Foundation.

The bill will be heard by the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

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