Gray Wolves Are Coming Home


Lucy McBride

Gray wolf roaming in the early morning in Yellowstone National Park.

By December 2023, gray wolves are coming home to the Western Slope after 82 years.

The gray wolf is one of nature’s most powerful and active predators. With strong jaws and sharp canine teeth – reaching up to two and a half inches long, they have the ability to kill big game and livestock. Their remarkable intelligence and sense of smell allows them to track and hunt their prey for miles at a time. Gray wolves play a key role in keeping ecosystems healthy. They are known to hunt large game such as deer and elk, which plays an essential part in keeping these populations at healthy numbers.

Up until the point of eradication, gray wolves roamed across North America. In the 1970s, the U.S. declared these species endangered and placed them under the Endangered Species Act. Since the 1990s, they have slowly been reintroduced to their original habitats, and are now steadily increasing their numbers across the Rocky Mountains.

Gray wolves are a native species in Colorado but were eradicated from the state in the mid-1940s due their impact on the numbers of livestock and game. This process was done by shooting, trapping, and poisoning this species. In the past decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has initiated the process for the state-led reintroduction of Gray Wolves in Colorado to restore this native canine.

Proposition 114, the Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative, was created and placed on the November 2020 ballot to ensure that the majority of Colorado was in favor of reviving the gray wolf species. Voting “yes” supported the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (CWP) in developing a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolf populations west of the Continental Divide. Although the vote was close, Colorado Proposition 114 ended up winning with 1,590,299 votes to 1,533,313. This victory allowed the CWP to take action in the production of this drastic change to our ecosystem.

Although Proposition 114 was approved and taken into action, certain communities are concerned about bringing wolves back to the western slope. Farmers are uncertain about the potential threat that wolves pose to livestock. However, Proposition 114 promises to replace and compensate for any lost livestock due to wolves. Additionally, hunters are skeptical of this idea because of the potential change in deer and elk patterns.

The controversy surrounding wolves has been present throughout Colorado for many years now. However, many people believe that the wolves deserve to live in the habitat where they once thrived. Welcoming gray wolves back into Colorado will allow our ecosystem’s biodiversity to increase which has the potential to create a long-lasting effect on our ecosystem, leading to a healthier and more sustainable environment in the future.