Wyoming Ranchers Prepared to Take Drastic Measures Against Wolves

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    The release of five gray wolves into the wild in a remote part of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains has triggered a contentious debate, especially among ranchers in neighboring Wyoming. In response to this controversial decision, Wyoming ranchers are expressing a willingness to adopt a shoot-on-sight policy to safeguard their livestock from potential wolf attacks.

    The wolves were released by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as part of a voter-approved measure aimed at increasing the wolf population in the state. The move has drawn criticism from ranchers who fear that the wolves, transplanted from Oregon, may target their sheep and cattle. Concerns were heightened when it was revealed that some of these carnivores might have been involved in killing livestock in their original habitat.

    In a direct response to this situation, ranchers in Wyoming are prepared to embrace their state’s shoot-to-kill policy if the wolves cross into Wyoming and pose a threat to their livestock. Wyoming has designated a “predatory” zone for wolves, covering a significant portion of the state, allowing them to be shot on sight.

    Jim Magagna, a sheep rancher and executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, emphasized, “If any of those wolves cross over into Wyoming, they’re no longer protected.” In Wyoming, wolves are classified as predators in certain areas, and ranchers can take immediate action to remove them. Magagna expressed skepticism about the adaptability of wolves, stating, “I’m not convinced that there is any wolf or any pack of wolves that isn’t capable of becoming acclimated to killing livestock.”

    Dennis Sun, a cattle rancher and Wyoming Livestock Roundup publisher echoed this sentiment, asserting that it’s only a matter of time before the wolves cross state lines. Despite Colorado’s plans to maintain a 60-mile buffer zone between wolf release sites and the Wyoming state line, Sun emphasized the wolves’ natural propensity for wandering. “Despite the availability of food sources, they’re going to travel,” he said. “When wolves kick yearlings out of the group, they travel.”

    Meanwhile, Colorado officials have outlined their plans to release 30 to 50 wolves within the next five years, aiming to address one of the last remaining major gaps in the western U.S. for the species. The decision to reintroduce wolves in Colorado, approved by a narrow margin in a 2020 ballot measure, has highlighted the stark divide between rural and urban residents. While city and suburb dwellers largely voted in favor of wolf reintroduction, rural communities, particularly in western Colorado, opposed the measure, expressing concerns about attacks on livestock.

    To allay fears within the livestock industry, the Colorado initiative includes compensation for ranchers who lose livestock or herding and guard animals to wolf attacks. Ranchers may receive up to $15,000 per lost animal, a measure aimed at addressing economic concerns while promoting coexistence between ranching activities and wolf reintroduction efforts. As the debate rages on, the fate of these wolves and their interactions with ranchers in the region remains a focal point in the ongoing battle between conservation and agriculture.