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Colorado confirms first depredation since gray wolves were reintroduced

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(The Center Square) – Less than four months after gray wolves from Oregon were reintroduced to Colorado, the state’s wildlife agency has confirmed a wolf killed a calf in Grand County.

A landowner contacted Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Tuesday and reported a dead calf, the agency said. Officers responded, investigated and confirmed a wolf killed the calf.

“The results of this investigation indicated wounds consistent with wolf depredation,” Jeromy Huntington, an area wildlife manager with CPW, said in a statement. “The field investigation found multiple tooth rake marks on the calf’s hindquarters and neck, and hemorrhaging under the hide, consistent with wolf depredation. Wolf tracks were also found nearby.”

The dead calf marks the first confirmed depredation since CPW released the first five wolves in Grand County last December.

The agency stated it will be contacting livestock owners in the area and encouraging use of non-lethal deterrents available through the agency. The techniques include “range riders and herders, hazing of wolves, scare tactics and other attempts to modify wolf behavior,” according to the Colorado Park and Wildlife Commission’s 261-page “Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan.”

In November 2020, 51% of Colorado voters passed Proposition 114, directing the commission to develop plans to restore and manage the gray wolf west of the Continental Divide by the end of 2023. Last October, the agency announced it would capture 10 gray wolves in Oregon under a one-year agreement with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The project required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ease its endangered species regulations to allow the reintroduction as experimental.

Last May, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Senate Bill 23-255 to provide compensation for people who suffer damages due to depredation by gray wolves. The law created a compensation fund for ranchers whose livestock are killed or injured by wolves. The bill’s fiscal note showed the state will transfer $175,000 this fiscal year and $350,000 in fiscal year 2024-2025 and future years.

The livestock producer will be eligible for a fair market value compensation if a claim is submitted, according to the agency’s media release on the depredation. The payment is up to a maximum of $15,000 per animal for the confirmed death of cattle, horses, mules, burros, sheep, lambs, swine, lama, alpaca, goats and guard or herding animals.

State law prohibits the agency from releasing private landowner information.

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