Colorado is moving ahead with gray wolf reintroduction anticipating “paws on the ground” by December 31st 2023. This exciting restoration effort is dependent in large part on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalizing a 10(j) rule.
What is 10(j)? It is a section of the Endangered Species Act that allows USFWS to “designate a population of a listed species as experimental if it will be released into suitable natural habitat outside the species’ current range, but within its probable historical range.” This designation allows for management techniques, such as harassment and, in a worst case scenario, killing an animal. This is important because conflict prevention tactics like hazing, for instance, have been shown to effectively deter wolves from attacking livestock. But without a 10(j) rule in place, these actions would be impermissible under the Endangered Species Act.
The rule will allow for Colorado to fully implement its wolf management plan with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in control of reintroduction efforts. This includes allowing wildlife officials, their agents, and property owners to use non-lethal methods to prevent and mitigate conflicts with livestock. It also allows for wolves that predate on livestock to be killed if absolutely necessary. We of course hope that the killing of wolves is very rare, and that it would only occur when nonlethal prevention efforts have failed. And we anticipate that Colorado shows that it can coexist with wolves by committing to using the techniques and funds allocated by the Colorado General Assembly, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the wolf license plate to do this work.
We know that coexistence is possible, and the 10(j) rule will help Colorado to implement the strategies and techniques needed to prevent conflict. The rule is anticipated to be in effect by mid-December, just in time for the anticipated first release of wolves into Colorado.