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Colorado rancher hopes for wolves


Here's what we in the news business would call a man-bites-dog story. A western Colorado rancher is testing scat found on his land to determine whether wolves finally have returned to the state, and he's eager to get them back.

"It seemed logical to me, based on what happened in Yellowstone National Park, that keystone species like wolves might have a positive effect on biodiversity and restoring the health of aspens on this property," said Paul Vahldiek in a statement released by the Wildlands Network.

Vahldiek has already spotted wolf tracks on his 300-square-mile High Lonesome Ranch, but the DNA tests would be the first concrete evidence the species has reestablished itself in Colorado. 

For the past several years, rumors have rippled through the Centennial State of wolf sightings, but the animal has not been officially confirmed as moving down from its habitat in the northern Rockies. Wolves were wiped out in Colorado by federally paid bounty hunters in the 1940s.

It's safe to say ranchers and wolves haven't gotten along in recent years, not in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming, where the predators were reintroduced in the 1990s, or New Mexico and Arizona, where rural residents have fought against the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf. The canines are blamed by some for devastating livestock herds and threatening people.

Vahldiek clearly doesn't share all those concerns. The release from the Wildlands Network, a strong advocate of the predator returning to the Rocky Mountain region, says he became interested in wolves during a talk at a conservation meeting at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch.

The group's president, Michael Soule, said: "The return of wolves to Colorado would be proof that safe landscape connections are key to maintaining critical, keystone species in the West."

-- Nicholas Riccardi

Photo: A young gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park. Credit: National Park Service

Comments () | Archives (8)

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Colorado sportsmen get yourself educated on wolves ...... this non-endanged non-threatened excuse of an animal is effecting game herd. Wake up or your great elk herds will be going down the wolf drain!

Let's take a breath & see what the DNA tests reveal.
As for Mr. Vahldiek, he has never been left wing. Mr. Vahldiek enjoyed hunting earlier in his life which is certainly not a left wing pasttime. He does hold a jurisprudence degree & a law license so you are partially correct. You are incorrect about him not being a rancher. He has been a "rancher" in Texas for decades, albeit one who had to stay in Houston to earn a living rather than live on a family parcel. He has always been concerned about the ecosystem of the land for decades & negotiated with oil companies regarding his family land.
Vahldiek earned his assets through legal work & investing before & after marriage. Many of his college classmates were able to achieve similar results through luck & great business contacts.

Mrs. Vahldiek's companies provide jobs for thousoands which is important in our small, rural community. She rose to the top of her industry & held the Presidency of the Indsutry's Association. People at our church say it is a good company to work for. The Vahldieks use their assets to donate to charities which are especaily struggling in the current economy.

The Valhdieks talk of retiring to the ranch & would probably enjoy closing the ranch off for themselves. I'm glad they haven't. The fees from fishermen & hunters can keep the ranch in the best shape, pristine shape, than it previoulsy had been in a nearly a century. No, even with the possibilty of wolves this ranch isn't going to become a tourist attraction. More human traffic would not be healthy for the ecosystem & the couple clearly do not need the money from sightseers.

And Joe, the High Lonseome is a working cattle ranch. Wranglers & Cowhands work the herd through the lower pastures which are able to sustain year round grazing due to Mr.Vahldiek's substantial investment in range improvement & management. Even as recent as the last decade, his valley was the only one in Colorado that could sustain a herd year round.

I am torn abou the wolf issue but willing to wait for facts. Remember this isn't a Yellowtone situatio where the species is being re-introduced. We're talking about an animal that roams the Northern Rockies & may have foraged back into Colorado own their own.
As far as the headline that he is "hoping for wolves", that sounds like a bit of romantic license from a reporter after speaking briefly with a passionate city-dweller who takes refuge from the daily stress by using imagery from the Old West & dreaming of retiring to the Grand Mesa Area.
I'd sure like to get in on that dream but I'm not going to blast the guy who has created good, sustainable, year round jobs with benefits because he is excited that wolves might have come through the ranch.
As for Mrs. Vahldiek, she wears jeans & boots & will drink from a plastic cup at camp. She may have a great knack for business but let's not villify her for her good fortune; that would be just plain envy.
We gripe about the bsinesses that don't care about the environment & now we get angry at business owners trying to maintain natural ecosystems?

Again, lets wait for the results & find reasonable approaches to the issue instead of engaging in unhelpful, polarizing jabs like we are in the U.S. Congress. Pursue the middle ground & eschew the extremes.

Stephanie want to destroy all wild creatures and nature so we can take the land and live in their homes. But I know who the real predators are:,0,2922802.story

Teacher killed by Wolves

You tell her parents they are just domestic dogs.

Joe ' you got nothing to do at one in the morning' but bash something you know nothing about? Ii've lived with a wolf for ten years,and prefer them to shallow people like you.

Mr. Valdich first of all is not a rancher. He is a very overpaid lawyer that married a very rich woman. He spent her money on the property, remember its not a ranch. Best case a dude ranch, and he thinks he will prosper by bringing wolves in to attract tourism. Although he is typical left wing liberal, he dont consider the repercutions and the affects it will play on his neighbors. TYPICAL LIBERAL WOLF LOVER!!!!

And for michelle you are a sadcalifornian and a very misinformed one. People like you are why we have wolves to begin with if you want them so bad I am sure the canadians would send you a few they are still laughing at us for paying them for wolves they would have been more than glad to have givin us.

"Devastating" livestock herds? Coyotes and -- get this -- domestic dogs -- kill far more livestock than do wolves. Weather kills more cattle than do wolves. Perhaps if the ranchers took care of their herds better, they would not be so "devastated." Instead, ranchers assume they have a right to let cattle wander randomly (on public land) without the nuisance of having someone "ride herd" so to speak. Taking better care of cattle might raise the cost of beef somewhat and perhaps cut into profit margins, but the people who produce and consume these products (me included) should bear the true costs. As noted, wolves provide an important link in the food chain and protect stability for deer and other wild animals, as well as protect trees and vegetation.

Check out the full story of wolves in Colorado in the latest High Country News:


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