Will wolves wipe out elk and deer?
The claim that wolves have “decimated” their prey populations in the states where the government reintroduced them is patently false. Official data highlights that there are more elk in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming today than there were when the government reintroduced wolves over a quarter century ago. For an independent assessment of the effects of wolves on big game in North America, check out this factsheet from the scientists at Colorado State University: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/people-predators/wolves-big-game-and-hunting-8-001/
Taking this a step further, let’s simply apply some common sense: If wolves were prone to wipe-out their prey, they would have eaten themselves to extinction. Statements about wolves “decimating” their prey amount to fear-mongering and deceit, plain-and-simple.
Have hunters replaced the role of wolves?
Human hunters more closely resemble mountain lions in their behavior, as they hunt by stalking and ambush. Wolves, on the other hand, are coursing predators, meaning that they confront and chase their prey. Here’s some amazing footage by videographer Deby Dixon to give you a sense of what coursing predation is:
Are hunters opposed to wolf reintroduction?
According to two decades of polling, most Colorado hunters are in favor of restoring wolves to western Colorado. Take a listen to hunter and former county commissioner David Gann: https://youtu.be/8EnX-R62aK8
Multiple polls over the past 25 years have shown strong majorities of hunters in Colorado support wolf reintroduction. For an independent assessment of the attitudes of hunters, rural residents and citizens throughout Colorado about restoring wolves, check out this factsheet from the scientists at Colorado State University: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/people-predators/public-perspectives-on-wolves-and-wolf-reintroduction-8-004/
For more information on this and related topics, visit the FAQs developed by the scientists at Colorado State University: https://sites.warnercnr.colostate.edu/centerforhumancarnivorecoexistence/projects/wolves-faq/
Is there enough room [and prey] for wolves in western Colorado?
Western Colorado has 17 million acres of public land (over 70% of the entire area), wild places that host 280,000 elk (the largest population in North America) and 420,000 deer. There’s plenty of room for wolves. Only 11% of Coloradans live on the West Slope. Polling in 2019 shows 67% of Coloradans support reintroduction.
The American people collectively own over 70% of western Colorado as land managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. Science shows that the vast public land base and teeming elk population of western Colorado represent one of the last, best places for wolves.
For an independent assessment of Colorado’s capacity to support a robust and persistent population of wolves, see the “Can Colorado still support wolves?” FAQ written by the scientists at Colorado State University: https://sites.warnercnr.colostate.edu/centerforhumancarnivorecoexistence/projects/wolves-faq/
Could wolves change the prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)?
Re-establishing wolves should help to limit the spread and seriousness of CWD. All Coloradans who value deer and elk should welcome that help. While predation may not eliminate CWD from an ungulate population, predators that select for disease-compromised cervids should prove useful. For an independent assessment of the potential for wolves to affect the prevalence of CWD, check out the “How might wolves affect chronic wasting disease in elk and deer in Colorado?” section of this factsheet from the scientists at Colorado State University: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/people-predators/wolves-and-disease-8-006/