Colorado wildlife officials released a second wave of five gray wolves in the state on Friday, continuing a controversial reintroduction program that has faced opposition from local ranchers.
The ten wolves were captured in Oregon and released into Colorado wilderness in an effort to reintroduce the wolf species to the Rocky Mountains region. The first wave was released last week.
Ranchers have opposed the program, claiming that a revitalized wolf population could threaten their livestock.
But a federal judge shut down their legal claims last week, just before the first release of wolves.
“The petitioners who have lived and worked on the land for many years are understandably concerned about possible impacts of this reintroduction,” Judge Regina Rodriguez stated.
She ruled, however, that these impacts are not sufficient “to grant the extraordinary relief” sought by the ranchers.
The ten wolves, six females and four males chosen for their health, are intended to re-grow a Colorado gray wolf population that environmentalists argue is critical to ensure a balanced wildlife habitat.
Colorado officials said they plan to release a third tranche of five additional wolves by March, and aim to reintroduce 30 to 50 wolves over the next five years.
Centennial State voters narrowly approved the wolf program in 2020 in a public ballot measure that garnered just 50.9 percent of the vote.
“The return of wolves fulfills the will of voters,” Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said at the first reintroduction last week. “What followed were three years of comprehensive listening and work by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to draft a plan to restore and manage wolves.”
“The shared efforts to reintroduce wolves are just getting started and wolves will rejoin a diverse ecosystem of Colorado wildlife,” he added.
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