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Colorado is getting feedback on its wolf plan. Both supporters and critics of reintroduction want changes

John and Karen Hollingsworth

On Thursday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife kicked off a series of public hearings to let residents weigh in on its plan to reintroduce grey wolves.

The state is proposing to capture as many as fifteen wolves from the Northern Rockies next winter and release them somewhere near Vail and Glenwood Springs. The releases would continue yearly until about fifty wolves are released on the West Slope.

The state wildlife commission will decide in May whether to move forward with the plan. It wants to get feedback first at five public hearings being held over the next month.

At the first hearing in Colorado Springs, both the supporters and opponents of the wolf reintroduction said they had issues with the draft plan.

Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center Founder, Darlene Kobobel, said the state should change the plan to better promote non-lethal intervention when wolves pose a threat to livestock.

“There should be no lethal management until non-lethal management methods are tried,” she told the Parks and Wildlife Commission.

She said allowing the state and ranchers to kill wolves under some circumstances would make it less likely that wolf conservation groups like hers would donate to the state’s restoration efforts.

Meanwhile, rancher Andy Spann of Gunnison said he and others raising cattle on the West Slope are skeptical of the state’s plans to reimburse them for any livestock the wolves kill.

“It will be difficult to get timely compensation,” he said. “These will be very real economic losses to us, and many ranchers could go out of business.”

Spann added there could be a decline in cattle breeding rates because of stress caused by wolves.

Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Travis Duncan said Wednesday more than two hundred and fifty people have also commented on the wolf plan online since it was unveiled in early December.

The hearings continue next week in Gunnison. Click here for a full schedule and to find out how to participate.

Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.