March madness arrives in Colorado |

March madness arrives in Colorado

By Bob West, Whiskey Belle Ranch, Author of “Twenty Miles of Fence: Blueprint of a Cowboy” with Janet Fogg

March Madness has arrived in Colorado. The score is Wolves 31, Domestic Animals 0. The game hasn’t even started yet as the rules are still being written, with time running out for the Domestic Animals team.

The recent killing of two dogs Cisco and Blaze by two predator wolves in Routt County, and the slaughter of a dog and several cattle near Walden, with one of the unfortunate incidents 10 feet from the rancher’s house remind us of the stakes we will be playing with as the wolf introduction begins in Colorado. Even Gov. Jared Polis, part of the Wolves team recently tried to use his influence on the Citizens Stakeholder Advisory Group and The Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make sure the the “rules” would never allow hunting of wolves in the state.

With a 35 year career and now retired urban based Boulder architect, and now in my second life, a Scottish Highland cattle rancher living in northern Colorado, I am watching and participating in the sometime tenuous “rules” making process that has occurred over the last 18 months with great interest. The process and outcome will have a direct effect on my daily life. As in all public processes like this one, with the various interests of the stakeholders on full display, many of the decisions and rules work themselves out to a reasonable outcome. In reading the final draft of the Wolf Recovery Plan, the majority of the public would agree the plan is well developed. Like most agreements between parties with conflicting interests 99 percent of the rules may work well, but it is that final 1 percent that determines whether the plan will be a success.

That’s where Cisco and Blaze may come in. The vast majority of ranchers I talk to, don’t have a big problem with the wolf re-introduction in Colorado. Through years of experience with predators and domestic animal conflicts, as well as now documented experience in other states with wolf packs of sizable numbers, they just want one rule changed. They want the ability to protect their livestock, animals, and even their children if a wolf is in the act of attacking a domestic animal on their property. As it stands today, if the rancher defending Cisco and Blaze would have confronted the attacking collared wolves in the act and killed them, he would be likely facing jail time and a significant fine. 

I certainly understand the concern of the environmentalists on the Wolves team about opening the door to allowing the limited “hunting” of newly introduced problem wolves. I also understand that non lethal alternatives tried by the Domestic Animals team are not very effective according to the results of the recent wolf/cattle conflicts in Walden, Colo. The history of needless slaughter of coyotes for sport by ranchers across the west by airplane, poison, and miniature cyanide bombs, is not a great example of restraint. If you want some “on the ground facts and statistics” about coyotes and cattle conflicts, read my new book published by Bison Books “Twenty miles of Fence: Blueprint of a Cowboy.” I document the myths of calf loses to coyote predation over a decade on a 150 Angus cow calf ranch operation in Wyoming, and my subsequent ban of coyote hunting on the ranch.

My gripe with people today in our often contentious politically biased country is we just “bitch” back and forth, and don’t offer any solutions. Well here my suggestions and solution to the biggest remaining issue for a real workable Wolf Recovery Plan:

The solution utilizes the amazing technology available today. Simply suggest that ranchers and other rural stakeholders purchase a small “Go-pro” or similar audio and video recording device, mount the device with the use of the “Sportsman Mount” on their favorite predator rifle (a night time capable device and mount run about $900). If a wolf attack occurs, and the land owner records the the animal in the act as well as the guilty wolf’s demise and provides the proof to the investigative officials of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, with the result… no jail time or fine. No visual recording and wolves are killed…. big trouble for the landowner.

My big concern, without a good solution for problem wolf attacks on our domestic animals, in the next few years in a future March Madness month when the score of the game is Wolves 3,000 and Domestic Animals 0, and potentially a child is killed, all bets will be off. Colorado will need to build bigger prisons for “law breaking” ranchers and a bunch of wolves will mysteriously disappear. A lose, lose for everyone.

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