DENVER — With the reintroduction of gray wolves into Colorado's high country occurring before the end of the year, mountain ranchers are feeling anxious for their livestock and livelihoods.
Plans from the state and federal governments show the reintroduction process could begin as early as Dec. 8 and as late as Dec. 31, with few other details shared.
Shad Murib, operator of the Copper Bar Ranch, said he and his wife are anxious about what the wolves could mean for their livestock.
Murib, who also serves as the Colorado Democratic Party chair, voted against gray wolf reintroduction when it was put to Colorado voters as a ballot proposition in 2020.
"I'm against the reintroduction. I think wolves were coming into Colorado anyway, naturally, from the northwest corner of the state," he said. "It comes from this perspective of really loving wolves and not wanting to see them put in harm's way, and also making sure that our cattle live healthy, safe lives on pasture."
CPW will reintroduce gray wolves anytime between Friday and end of 2023
Colorado voters narrowly supported the reintroduction in 2020 with a vote of 51% to 49%, and plans have been crafted in the years since to reintegrate gray wolves into Colorado's ecosystem. The time has now come to begin the process, with staff members from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) slated to travel to northwest Oregon and transfer a small number of young wolves of breeding age, to start.
"We're kind of in a wait-and-see mode," Murib said when asked how he and his wife are preparing. "But you know, we're moving our cows into their winter pasture, and we're going to take care of them as good as we can."
CPW has shared an online pamphlet instructing how best to avoid wolves, and what to do if they are encountered in the wild. CPW has not said exactly when and where they will be released, only that it will begin in December.
Even though he is against the reintroduction, Murib said he understands the state not sharing those details given the danger of poachers to the wolf population. Now, he said he and his fellow ranchers are just hoping their animals stay safe and that the state will adequately compensate ranchers when they do lose livestock.
"I think ranchers are in a difficult position here," he said. "Because the truth of the matter is, we love wolves. We don't want to be put in a position where wolves are put in any danger. However, we also have to take care of our livestock. And our livestock is our livelihood."