U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes designation of gray wolf experimental population in Colorado

Photo courtesy Lori Iverson/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A gray wolf (Canis lupus) with a Uinta ground squirrel catch.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

In support of a statewide voter-led initiative passed in November 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized the designation of an experimental population of gray wolves (Canis lupus) in Colorado under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

This action provides management flexibility in support of the state of Colorado’s voter-mandated gray wolf reintroduction program.

The final 10(j) rule and final Record of Decision (ROD) are available in the Reading Room and at https://www.fws.gov/coloradowolf. 

The 10(j) rule will become effective on Dec. 8, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission intends to reintroduce the gray wolf in a portion of the species’ historical range in Colorado by Dec. 31. 

CPW requested the designation of an experimental population under section 10(j) of the ESA to provide the state with increased flexibility to manage wolves once reintroduced in Colorado. 

CPW completed and published a Final Wolf Restoration and Management Plan for reintroducing the species. The state management plan provides for differing management tools based on achieving recovery targets. As the state achieves these recovery targets, tools available to the public under state laws and regulations may be more restrictive than what is allowable under the Service’s federal rule.

The announcement follows extensive coordination and outreach among many partners in Colorado at the local, state, federal and tribal levels. 

On Sept. 15, the Service announced the draft ROD and Final Environmental Impact Statement. The final ROD concludes that the Service will implement proposed “alternative 1” from the scoping and draft process to finalize a 10(j) experimental population designation.

This final Service experimental population rule designates management flexibility to the state for reintroduced gray wolves in Colorado. This management flexibility can help to address potential conflicts between wolves and humans, and wolves and domestic animals while contributing to the conservation of the species. Learn more about 10(j) rules and experimental populations at https://www.fws.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ESA-section10%28j%29-fact-sheet.pdf.

Additional information, documents, and frequently asked questions about the experimental population designation can be found at https://www.fws.gov/coloradowolf. 

More information from CPW regarding its reintroduction of gray wolves can be found at https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/CON-Wolf-Management.aspx.