Wolves in Colorado? A rancher’s perspective | PostIndependent.com

Wolves in Colorado? A rancher’s perspective

Eric Porter
Guest Opinion

Reintroduction of the gray wolf to Colorado will be the topic of a Naturalist Night presentation in Carbondale and Aspen, Feb. 7 and 8 respectively.

We have been very involved with the wolf reintroduction program in Oregon. The first pack in Oregon was the Imnaha pack, and we own a ranch right in the middle of where this pack is located.

It's a very helpless feeling when you can't control the savagery and brutality that wolves inflict on your livestock. I will not go into the hell wolves have caused us, but I would encourage everyone, especially people who are not connected to the outdoors, to read "The Real Wolf" by Ted B. Lyon and Will N. Graves.

It is completely backed up by facts, not myths and half-truths. Even if you don't care about ranching in the West, this book will make you aware of the diseases and hazards to human life that come with wolves, the economic impact on rural areas, and also the decimation of wild game.

For instance, in Yellowstone Park, according to their game count, the elk herd went from 19,000 to 4,900 after the introduction of the wolves.

"Defenders of Wildlife," an environmental group, dropped their compensation program in 2010 (which if you read the book, and from my own personal experience was a joke). One out of seven to eight kills were ever confirmed, conception rates went down, body scores on cows went down, weaning weights went down. Nothing was said about repayment for any of this, let alone the increased manpower to try to take care of livestock in wolf country.

I thought they dropped their compensation program because it was costing them too much for the confirmed kills (which was minuscule compared to losses). But in "The Real Wolf" it states that Defenders of Wildlife felt ranching should become a thing of the past in areas where wolves were prevalent.

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So even if you don't care about ranching I ask: What happens to the banks, the car dealers, farm equipment dealers, restaurants? Almost every business in these rural areas benefit from ranching. Please read the book to see how tourism from "wolf howlings" is going to replace this lost revenue.

Initially, to appease us (ranchers, sportsmen, anyone concerned with reintroduction of wolves) we were promised the goal of 10 breeding pairs or 100 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming combined. Well, guess what, the goal posts have been changed drastically.

No one knows how many wolves there are now; 5,000-10,000? No one can even make an honest guess. There could be as many as 100,000 wolves on the North American continent, so how can they even be listed on the endangered species list?

Still, here in Oregon three environmental groups are currently suing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to force them to put wolves back on the endangered species list.

I sat in on a wolf reintroduction meeting in Carbondale, Colorado, and, yes, after going through what we have in Oregon it is not easy to sit and listen where a lot of what is said is not backed up by facts.

With the wolf issue being so important I hope that the general public will take it upon themselves to get educated on the subject before accepting on faith the latest environmental activist movement's pet project as necessary or even valid.

In the end, if there is anything good to come out of this wolf reintroduction issue it is: The general public will realize how bad they have been misled by these environmental groups on this wolf issue and maybe the groups will lose much of their credibility.

But I am afraid it will be too late to save the impact on thousands of livelihoods, along with the decimation of the elk, moose, deer, mountain sheep, all wildlife that these states' wildlife officers have worked so hard to conserve. Once again, don't believe me. Read the book "The Real Wolf." It has the numbers that are fact, not fiction.

Eric Porter is a rancher now living in Oregon, but with ranching ties in western Colorado as well.