Local ranchers are quite dismayed that Colorado voters approved Proposition 114 last week, which is set to reintroduce gray wolves in the state. A majority of voters on the Front Range and in San Miguel County voted to increase wolf populations. But ranchers like Terri Snyder Lamers say the wolves are already here and the species pose a great danger to livestock.
Lamers’ family, Snyder Ranches in Norwood, currently runs 1,000 head of sheep and approximately 500 head of cows. She’s not only worried about losing livestock to wolves, she’s worried about the trauma that an increased wolf presence will create, which could affect cattle reproduction rates. She’s also worried about working dogs on the ranch, which will be preyed upon, she said.
Lamers said the Department of Wildlife studied the wolf issue in Colorado four previous times over the last several years, and Proposition 114 goes against expert advice.
She said the cost is reason enough to question the idea of wolf introduction. She wonders why the state would spend what could be millions on wolves, when at least a $3 billion deficit exists.
“We can’t fund K-12 or fix our roads,” Lamers said. “It’s a poor choice.”
She added some groups with big money have worked to bring wolves in and have encouraged voters to support such initiatives. Lamers said some of the groups promise to reimburse the rancher for losses to wolves, but that process is so complicated it doesn’t really work. She’s heard from ranchers who had to find the carcass of a dead livestock animal, and then locate the actual damage under the hide. As a result, they received 10 cents on the dollar for the value of the animal. She said overall it’s very difficult to get the wolf proponents to help with the damages.
Lamers said it’s increasingly hard for those like her who are producing food — lamb and beef — when voters don’t understand what it really takes.
“People don’t realize how this works,” she said. “People don’t realize where food comes from.”
Lamers said people should be educated about food security, so that when they head to the polls they understand how the choices they make affect the farmer and rancher, and in the end, their food source.
“There are ramifications for the choice they made,” she said. “You’re impacting the farmer and ranchers’ livelihood when you’re not walking in their shoes. It’s discouraging.”
Colorado Cattleman’s Association President Janie VanWinkle, who graduated from Nucla High School and now ranches outside of Grand Junction, told the Norwood Post on Monday that the numbers she has seen cost the state between $5 to $8 million for wolf reintroduction. VanWinkle said Colorado Parks and Wildlife has established that the science doesn’t support additional wolves.
“How are they going to find the path that says ‘do it,’ when science says ‘don’t?’” she asked.
VanWinkle said the state mandate plans to bring wolves to the Western Slope by December 2023. She recently made a Colorado tour and said ranchers in rural Colorado are very concerned about the wolf issue.
She also stated that funding public education and roads are the priority.
She said now that the voters have spoken, ranchers must have a seat at the table to discuss what the wolf plan looks like.
“That’s going to be a challenge to get to be at the table,” she said.
Lamers said she also wonders about the “yes” voters in San Miguel County and if they considered the risk of wolf predation on the Valley Floor.
“There’s no invisible line that can protect those elk,” she said.