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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Gray wolves don’t need our help at the ballot box. They’re already here.

For those in favor of a wolf reintroduction, I would ask you to think hard about why you would vote yes on this measure on November’s ballot? 

Wolves have made it to Colorado and are staying. More wolves will get to Colorado and most likely proliferate throughout the state in a natural manner. Leaving them to migrate in on their own is much less invasive to both humans and wolves.

Letting wolves reintroduce themselves on their own accord comes at no up-front cost to taxpayers. 

Adam Gall

Voter-mandated reintroduction comes with a significant pricetag for taxpayers. Colorado Parks and Wildlife currently has no funding available to take on the hefty price tag of wolf reintroduction and management.

Bottom line, at this point in the Rocky Mountain West, gray wolves don’t need our help. Like all wildlife, they need to be treated respectfully and, in our current day and age, they need to be managed based on scientific data and not through legislation. 

Ballot-box biology is not a wise way of managing our wildlife resources. Voting “no” on the wolf issue this fall will help bring another one of these attempts to a halt.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Additionally, I would like to address those making claims that are unsubstantiated regarding wolves. These claims are doing little good but instead spread very biased information or in some cases, totally erroneous information. 

It would help immensely if factual and proven data were put out to the general public. The most common statements continuously repeated are:  

“Wolves will decimate our big game herds”

This simply is not true. Take a look at the hunting opportunities in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Record numbers of elk and record numbers of harvested elk by hunters. This is fact. You can look up the numbers.

All this with wolves having been on the landscape for nearly 25 years now. Are some areas below objective in the biologists’ eyes, particularly in central Idaho? Yes. The same can also be said in Colorado where wolves aren’t on the landscape.

Fact is, game numbers fluctuate. Predators definitely play a role in that, hard winters play a role, management decisions play a role.

I know first hand that wolves will screw up hunting. They kill elk. We may not experience things as we have for decades past when we’re in the mountains in the fall chasing elk. But that’s hunting. It’s not guaranteed killing. 

“Wolves carry echinococcus cysts and spread disease”

Yes, wolves carry these cysts. So do domestic dogs, coyotes and foxes. And ungulates like elk and deer are intermediate hosts. Saying wolves will spread it and infect everything else is severely stretching the truth and is another prime example of fear mongering.

“These are Canadian gray wolves and are bigger than wolves that lived here historically”

Wolves aren’t able to recognize international borders. Wolves coming south from Canada don’t get to the Washington, Idaho or Montana state lines and turn around. 

The wolves brought in from British Columbia and Alberta that were reintroduced into Idaho and Wyoming are the same subspecies of gray wolf that historically occupied that area. 

MORE: Wolf supporters say they gathered 200,000 signatures, enough for reintroduction question on 2020 ballot

Some will argue that there were dozens of subspecies of gray wolf in the U.S., which is the basis for the “Canadian” gray wolf theory.

However, the most veteran wolf researchers in the nation, including Dave Mech, have refuted this claim. Wolves cross between Canada and the U.S. with some frequency, which is why Montana needed no reintroduced population. 

Adult males, on average, weigh 85 pounds. Adult females, on average, weigh 75 pounds. For reference, our black lab weighs 99 pounds. Are there individual wolves that get bigger than this? Sure. Are all these wolves 130-pound monsters? No.

Colorado may be unique in that it’s thought it was an area where different subspecies could have had neighboring territories and interbred, particularly the Mexican gray wolf and the gray wolf. 

This could have resulted in a slightly smaller animal, but that’s pure speculation because we have no way to prove this.

In summary, I would encourage everyone to vote “No” on wolf reintroduction in Colorado this fall. 

I would also encourage everyone to do their homework, educate themselves on wolves and hold conversations based on facts, not myths, when it comes to wolves, their behavior and their impacts.


Adam Gall is a former wolf biologist for the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho. He currently runs an outfitting business in western Colorado.