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Wyoming ranchers would shoot on sight if Colorado wolves strayed into the state

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Wyoming ranchers would shoot on sight if Colorado wolves strayed into the state

Ranchers in Wyoming say they are willing to shoot wolves on sight to protect their livestock, following a controversial decision by neighboring Colorado to release several large canines back into the wild.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife released five gray wolves at an undisclosed location in a remote area of ​​Colorado’s Rocky Mountains on Dec. 18 as part of a voter-approved measure to boost their numbers.

The move drew criticism from ranchers in Colorado and neighboring Wyoming who fear wolves might go after sheep and cattle. Wolves were relocated from Oregon, and it was revealed that some of those carnivores may be involved in killing livestock in their home state.

Scientists say the endangered Mexican gray wolf is wandering beyond borders

the gray wolf

Wildlife officials shoot a wolf on public lands in Grand County, Colorado, on December 18, 2023. Wyoming ranchers say they are willing to shoot wolves on sight in order to protect their livestock from possible attacks after Colorado released several canines into the wild. Wild. (Colorado Natural Resources via AP)

But Wyoming ranchers told Cowboy State Daily they would adopt a shoot-to-kill policy in their state if wolves crossed into their state and threatened their livestock. Wyoming has a “predator” zone for wolves covering much of the state where they can be shot on sight.

“If any of those wolves crossed into Wyoming, they would no longer be protected,” Jim Magna, a sheep rancher and executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, told the Cowboy State Daily.

“They are classified as predators and can be eliminated. I am not convinced that there is any wolf or any wolf population that is unable to adapt to killing livestock.”

Dennis Sun, a rancher and publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Report, said it’s only a matter of time before wolves cross state lines given their tendency to wander, though Colorado plans to maintain a 60-mile buffer zone between wolf release sites. And the Wyoming state line.

Picture of a wolf in captivity

A 14-year-old wolf stands above his den at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (CWWC) in Divide, Colorado on March 28, 2023. Colorado recently released five gray wolves into the wild and ranchers fear they will wander into Wyoming and attack their livestock. (Jason Connolly/AFP)

Colorado releases first 5 wolves as controversial reintroduction program moves forward

“Even though food sources are available, they will travel,” Sun said. “When wolves expel their young from the pack, they travel.”

Meanwhile, officials in Colorado expect to release between 30 and 50 wolves over the next five years in hopes that the program will begin to fill one of the last remaining major gaps in the western United States for the species. Gray wolves historically ranged from northern Canada to the desert southwest, according to the Associated Press.

The state voted 50.91% to 49.09% in favor of service reinstatement efforts in a 2020 ballot measure that sharpened divisions between rural and urban residents. Urban and suburban residents have largely voted to reintroduce predators into rural areas where prey can include livestock that help drive local economies and big game like elk that hunters prize.

It has met with strong opposition in conservative rural areas where livestock owners are wary of attacks on livestock. It was seen as part of a larger battle between rural communities in western Colorado and liberal leaders in the state who embrace renewable energy and tourism, trumping economic mainstays like fossil fuel extraction and agriculture.

A photo of about 20 cattle grazing in a field in Wyoming

Cattle have been seen in Wyoming. Ranchers in Wyoming say they are willing to shoot wolves on sight in order to protect their livestock, following the controversial decision by neighboring Colorado to release several large canines back into the wild. (Sloan George/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Hunting groups have also raised concerns that wolves will reduce the size of herds of elk and other large animals eaten by predators.

However, wolves will remain protected for the foreseeable future in Colorado.

To allay livestock industry concerns, up to $15,000 per lost animal will be paid to ranchers who lose livestock or grazing and guarding animals due to wolf attacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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