Ranchers in yet another Colorado town say they’re preparing for more wolf attacks while state wildlife officials investigate the killings of 18 calves south of Meeker, possibly from the state’s newest pack.
Lenny Klinglesmith confirmed that his calves had been killed and that he wants his neighbors to be aware of the attacks so they could “reduce risk to their livestock.”
His calves were killed across several miles of White River National Forest lands over a period of about two weeks, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Travis Duncan said on Friday. Their deaths bore signs of a wolf attack, though wildlife officials have yet to confirm that detail.
If wolves did kill the calves, Duncan said that likely means a second – and as of yet unconfirmed – pack is living in Colorado. The site of the killings sits a considerable distance away from North Park, where the state’s only confirmed pack lives.
Klinglesmith said he did not want to offer additional comment for this story but added that he’s looking for more evidence and information about what happened. He also sits on Colorado’s Stakeholders Advisory Group, one of two committees assigned to help wildlife officials reintroduce gray wolves into the wild after the narrow and contentious passage of Proposition 114 nearly two years ago.
Any wolves currently living in Colorado migrated here naturally. State officials have not yet reintroduced any gray wolves and instead are studying how best to handle the predators.
State officials, like ranchers in North Park and now those near Meeker, understand that wolf attacks on livestock are an inevitability. The state will reimburse ranchers for lost livestock but some farmers are also asking for stronger protections or even the ability to kill wolves that are attacking their animals.
Ranchers aren’t currently allowed to harm the wolves unless they’re in imminent danger because the animals are a federally protected species.
Brett Harvey, general manager of the Elk Creek Ranch, east of Klinglesmith’s LK Ranch, said his son spotted a wolf last summer near where the calves died. Around that time he began to think attacks could be coming.
“There have been random sightings here and there, I don’t know how many are reliable,” Harvey said.
Elk Creek Ranch has about 500 head of cattle and they’re currently out grazing, Harvey said, and when the ranch workers round them up they could find some missing or even killed.
“We’re not sure if we’ve lost any yet,” Harvey said.
The unconfirmed attacks on Klinglesmiths’ calves could foreshadow more to come, Harvey said.
And even though the state will pay ranchers for killed cattle, the wolves can hurt business in other ways, Harvey said.
Cows fearful of predators suffer and lose strength, Harvey said. They don’t feed, grow or breed as well as they otherwise would.
“They’re stressed,” he said. “They spend all their time looking for wolves rather than eating.”
And that hurts the bottom line, Harvey said.
To date, Colorado’s only confirmed wolf pack near Walden has killed at least five cows and two dogs. Ranchers in the area cried out against the attacks, arguing state wildlife officials weren’t prepared to protect their animals or businesses from the predators.
Tracking devices on the wolves failed over the summer, however, leading to some speculation that one or more of the wolves might have been illegally killed.