This November’s ballot includes a long list of statewide ballot measures. Among these is Proposition 114, Reintroduction and Management of Gray Wolves. This proposal was placed on the ballot by citizen initiative – i.e., petition – so it is not a referred measure from the Legislature. It seeks to change current state statute to direct the State of Colorado to engage in efforts to reintroduce gray wolves into the state. It does not amend the State Constitution.
Gray wolves are a native species to Colorado, but beginning in the late nineteenth century their numbers began to diminish. According to Wolves in Colorado: History and Status, a new fact sheet from the Colorado State University Extension, the hunting of wolves’ main sources of prey, such as elk, deer, and bison, first caused wolf populations to decline. Then, the wolves themselves became the target of hunters and landowners who killed and trapped them to protect their livestock. The last wolves disappeared from Colorado in the 1940s, although over the years there have been occasional sightings of wolves that have wandered in from Wyoming and other places.
Since the 1980s there have been discussions on reintroducing wolves to Colorado. In 2016, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted not to reintroduce wolves into Colorado, although they would not prevent wolves from migrating into the state on their own. This fact sheet explains the reasons behind that resolution.
If Proposition 114 were to pass, it would require the State of Colorado to develop a plan to reintroduce gray wolves into the state by the end of 2023. Part of this plan would include how to compensate livestock owners for animals killed by gray wolves. The 2020 Blue Book — the state’s official nonpartisan ballot guide — includes analysis on the measure, including arguments for and against.
Reintroduction brings many questions, including how wolves would change the state’s ecology and whether they are harmful to humans. This year the Colorado State University Extension issued a series of fact sheets dealing with some of these questions, which can provide helpful information to voters:
- Dialogue and Social Conflict About Wolves
- Ecological Effects of Wolves
- Moral Arguments Related to Wolf Restoration and Management
- Public Perspectives on Wolves and Wolf Reintroduction
- Wolf Economics
- Wolf Policy
- Wolf Taxonomy and Biology
- Wolves and Disease
- Wolves and Human Safety
- Wolves and Livestock
- Wolves, Big Game, and Hunting
- Wolves in Colorado: History and Status
The State Publications Library collection also includes a number of other publications from the past several decades regarding the question of wolf reintroduction. See:
- Colorado Residents’ Attitudes and Perceptions Toward Reintroduction of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupis) into Colorado (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 1995) – available for checkout via Prospector
- Findings and Recommendations for Managing Wolves that Migrate into Colorado (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2004)
- Guidelines for Response to Gray Wolf Reports in Colorado (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2005)
- The Last Stand of the Pack (University Press of Colorado, 2017) – available for checkout via Prospector
- State of Colorado Wolf Management Plan (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2004)
- Wolves — Knocking at Colorado’s Door (Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2004)
Finally, for additional information, visit Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s Wolf Management website.
Gray wolf photo courtesy Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Note: The sole purpose of this blog post is to direct Colorado voters to informational resources published by state government. It does not advocate for or against Proposition 114.