2020 has been a year of unprecedented events, so it really should not be a surprise that an unprecedented vote took place in Colorado this year. It was known as Proposition 114, and if it passed, it would direct the wildlife managers to reintroduce gray wolves to the state by 2024.
This was not an overwhelmingly popular proposition, although, with close results, the opponents conceded their loss on November 5. They were only ahead by 0.5%, but 90% of the votes were in. Most of the uncounted votes were from urban areas that were in strong favor of reintroducing the animals to Colorado.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department is due to take the lead to reestablish the population of those gray wolves, likely in 2022 or 2023. They used to be a large part of the state, living in great numbers in the southern Rocky Mountain area. That area is still largely uninhabited with millions of acres available for the wolves. Biologists feel that the land is capable of supporting hundreds of those animals, according to National Geographic.
WE DID IT! Together, our pack has passed Prop 114 to bring the gray wolf home to Colorado and restore our natural balance. Thank you to everyone who was part of helping to restore the missing howl! #HowlYES #YesOn114 #restorethehowl pic.twitter.com/drzpmSSUQN
— Vote YES on 114 – #RestoreTheHowl (@RockyMtnWolf) November 5, 2020
A conservationist with the Defenders of Wildlife group, Jonathan Proctor, said that reintroducing the animals to the state could restore the natural balance of the area.
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There were some residents, including many ranchers in rural areas, that were not in favor of the proposition. They were concerned that their livestock could be killed by the wolves, but according to National Geographic, Proctor said that in the 1990s, a successful reintroduction only resulted in 1 in 10,000 cattle being killed.
Opponents were also objecting to the decision to allow voters to have their say, saying that it should have fallen to state wildlife officials.
I VOTED YES ON #PROP114 TO REINTRODUCE GRAY WOLVES IN COLORADO. THEY’RE MEANT TO BE THRIVING IN THIS STATE. BRING ‘EM BACK.
— Investigate THREE eleven (@DennisDatMenace) October 29, 2020
One group that opposed the initiative, Coloradans for Protecting Wildlife, pointed out through their spokesperson, Shawn Martini, that this type of reintroduction has been declined in the past. National Geographic reports that he said: “This is the first time that any species would be introduced via the ballot box, and there’s a reason it’s never been done before – direct democracy certainly has its limits.”
A fund will be set up to help with any loss that is experienced by ranchers. The reintroduction program is already being worked on and is a priority in urban areas, where the wolves will be reintroduced. They want to train ranchers to help prevent any incidents with their cattle.
Due to widescale poisoning, tracking, and hunting, grey wolves were extinct in Colorado prior to the 1940s. In the 1970s, they were placed on the endangered species list and the federal government reintroduced them to Yellowstone National Park in Idaho in 1995 and 1996.
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