Colorado Parks & Wildlife Confirms Heifer Carcass Found Near Walden Killed By Wolves


Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed Tuesday, December 21, that the heifer was killed by wolves near Walden, the first death in about 70 years.
Colorado Cattle Association / Courtesy Photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed Tuesday, December 21, that a carcass of a heifer found near Walden was killed by wolves.

Breeding advocates say the roughly 500-pound heifer – born this spring and destined to replace an older cow in the herd – is at the heart of nearly every issue facing a commission planning the reintroduction of gray wolves in Colorado.

The animal carcass was first reported to Parks and Wildlife on December 19, and wildlife officers are convinced wolves are to be blamed after an investigation.

“The results of this investigation indicated traces of wolves in the immediate vicinity of the carcass and wounds on the calf consistent with wolf depredation,” said Kris Middledorf, wildlife manager for the Steamboat Springs area, in a report. communicated.

Parks and Wildlife officials added that state law already includes a landowner compensation program for livestock killed by mountain lions and bears, and that this program will be used to compensate the herder whose the heifer was killed by wolves during the drafting of the formal process.

Colorado voters narrowly approved a ballot measure that requires the reintroduction of gray wolves by the end of 2023, but a handful of wolves have been in the state for some time.

Parks and Wildlife confirmed that a wolf from the Wyoming Snake River Pack was near Walden in 2019, then placed a tracking collar on another wolf earlier this year. Wildlife officers have also observed puppies of this pair – the first such breeding pair in decades.

Colorado Cattleman’s Association executive vice president Terry Fankhauser said the killing is not unexpected and should stress the importance of how regulations regarding livestock predation are crafted by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

“Certainly we expect this to happen more, and it is the law of the land to reintroduce wolves,” Fankhauser said. “It is important that these situations are part of the planning process. We learn from them.

Fankhauser said he has no doubts the landowner, who has not been identified, will be compensated for the loss of the animal. However, he also said that this particular breeder has taken more expensive steps to avoid wolves year round and that a heifer check would not help the breeder recoup those costs.

“He made management decisions that cost him time and resources and couldn’t even use his headquarters facilities to calve,” said Fankhauser.

According to Fankhauser, the breeder is also noticing more open cows, which means they are not pregnant and will not produce calves this spring. The breeder attributes this to the stress caused to the animals by the presence of the wolves, Fankhauser said.

Paying for the dead animal isn’t the only issue, as the voting measure approved by voters included language requiring the commission to put in place a program to compensate for wolf killings. However, Fankhauser said he believed the language went further, forcing the commission to find a way to compensate landowners for the additional expenses related to wolf management.

Longtime Routt County rancher Jay Fetcher said it’s these extra costs – not livestock predation – that worries him the most. Right now, someone using a fat tire bike, horse, or all-terrain vehicle is the primary manager of their ranch.

“The cows know where they are and they are very comfortable,” said Fetcher. “I just know that if there are two wolves roaming around our Hahns Peak property, the cows would be a whole different story in terms of what (a worker) could handle. She would need more help. She should be there every day.

Fetcher is part of the Western Land Alliance, which has a representative on the commission’s stakeholder advisory group to try to make sure the commission pays attention to these additional costs.

“If we lose two to three or four calves a year, compensation is built into that,” Fetcher said. “But there is no question of compensating me for the additional management of the land. “

In Tuesday’s press release, Director of Parks and Wildlife Dan Prenzlow said the commission was working on regulations on how ranchers can try to scare wolves off cattle, but also noted that wolves cannot be killed for any reason other than self defense as they are an endangered species.


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