Colorado Legislature Considers Wolverine Reintroduction

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Last December, Colorado officials released wolves on the state’s Western Slope following a narrowly passed public ballot measure. Now, the state’s legislators are considering another apex predator reintroduction: Wolverines. 

According to a press release, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and a bipartisan group of legislators teamed up to announce and introduce a bill that would bring back wolverines—one of the rarest and most tenacious apex predators in North America. 

CPW initially considered wolverine reintroduction back in 1990 but opted to focus on bringing back the Canada lynx. The agency again considered wolverine reintroduction in 2010 but held off due to uncertainty surrounding the species’ listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In November 2023, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed wolverines as “threatened” under the ESA in the Lower 48. For the Colorado bill to ultimately take effect, the USFWS would need to designate a “nonessential experimental population” in the state. 

“Colorado is the right state to take on this work,” said CPW Director Jeff Davis. “The North American wolverine requires a high-elevation habitat with persistent, deep snowpack, and Colorado has some of the best remaining unoccupied wolverine habitat in the lower 48 states. This legislation would put us on the right path toward a successful wolverine reintroduction effort in Colorado.” 

Stefan Ekernass, director of Colorado field conservation for the Denver Zoo, told CBS News that wolverines could play an important ecological role by preying on the state’s burgeoning marmot population. “The reality is, we’re missing a predator of that species,” said Ekernass. 

The proposed bill would require CPW to “adopt rules providing for payment of fair compensation to owners of livestock for losses of livestock caused by the North American wolverine.”

Reintroduction advocates say that wolverine predation incidents involving wildlife are rare—though in one recent incident a lone wolverine killed 18 sheep in Utah. 

Read Next: Map Shows How Far Colorado’s Transplanted Wolves Have Spread Since December Release

The wolverine is the largest species of the weasel family. They are scavengers and carnivores and prey on small and big game species alike. According to the USFWS, there are currently around 400 wild wolverines in the contiguous U.S. CPW biologists estimate the Centennial State has enough habitat for 100-180 individuals. 

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