GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — Underneath the trees on top of the mountains overlooking us, lies a delicate dance of life. An ecosystem housing squirrels, deer, elk, bears, and more have coexisted together for centuries.
But an ancient predator not seen on the western slope since the nineteen forties is about to run wild once more.
The 10 J rule approved last week confirms wildlife officials will capture just ten Northern Gray Wolves from Oregon and release them between Vail and Aspen in December.
Janie Vanwinkle, owner of Vanwinkle Ranch, tells me this new rule allows ranchers to protect their cattle to a certain extent, though it’s not everything she hoped for.
Within this rule, it states the Colorado General Assembly will set up a $350,000 per year fund to pay ranchers who lose livestock to wolves.
But for livestock owners to get compensation, a CPW Officer must go to the carcass and confirm it’s a wolf-caused death.
Furthermore, she claims the effect of losing one of their own is greater than cash, though the cows may be harvested for beef.
Vanwinkle claims the stress of wolves in the area can affect both cattle’s eating habits, causing ranchers to lose money since they are paid by the pound, and cow’s conception rate.
Local cattle producer George Raftopolous broadens the horizon. He claims the re-introduced apex predator will impact elk and deer populations heavily.
He explains the elk and deer will be forced from the mountains and forests to plains where they can see more easily. In doing so, they will impact the prairie ecosystem of animals already living there – the food resources will dwindle fast from the uptick in consumption.
Senior conservation advocate for Center for Biological Diversity Michael Robinson has studied wolves and said they will help restore balance to elk and deer populations which will help heal the vegetation currently lost alongside streams and rivers.
He adds the reintroduction of these wolves will re-enforce survival of the fittest.
Michael also reminds me only ten wolves will be dropped off to start out with, so the chances of seeing them are rare – over time, anywhere from thirty to fifty will be relocated here.
The question is – will they stay when they’re dropped off?
Janie and George explain wolves move miles in just one day, so they fully expect to see wolves here in no time.
It was a close vote that allowed these predators to return to Colorado. Only time will tell how their presence makes an impact.