Wolf Reintroductions Considered for Elk Control in Colorado

While it's unlikely federal wildlife officials will reintroduce wolves into southern Colorado in order to reduce elk populations, the measure is at least being considered.

Spurred by a public comment, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is kicking around the idea of reintroducing wolves as a means of controlling elk numbers on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, according to Chieftain.com. Cottonwoods and willows have been hit hard by elk herds on the refuge, which sits just west of Great Sand Dunes National Park, about 50 miles north of the New Mexico borderline.

"Right now, [reintroducing wolves] is a question. You have a lot of elk, a lot of people would say you need a large predator," Laurie Shannon, a planning team leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told Chieftain.com. "We may not move forward with it, but right now it's on the table."

But the option to reintroduce wolves is not the most popular measure on the table. This is probably because there's no telling exactly where wolves will go once they are reintroduced. The Baca National Wildlife Refuge rests in the San Luis Valley, an alpine valley spanning 8,000 square miles between Colorado and New Mexico. Most of the San Luis is desert, but the land complex surrounding Baca includes 500,000 acres of mostly wild lands that contain one of the largest assemblages of wetland habitat in Colorado.