For wildlife in Colorado, the news is both good and bad.
The good news has come largely from Colorado voters demanding protections for wildlife. Some meaningful wildlife problems have been solved here by ballot initiative, where an issue is placed on the ballot for voters to decide the outcome. Through this process we have banned snares and leghold traps, which are incredibly cruel; hounding and baiting black bears (think dogs chasing bears up trees, and food or scents being used to lure them in); and hunting bears by any means in the spring and summer when cubs could be orphaned by a hunter taking a sow. Colorado also has banned the ridiculous practice of owning dangerous wild animals as pets, like big cats, bears, wolves and primates.
The bad news means more work for people like us. The primary threat to wildlife in Colorado is the politics of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, which sets regulations and policies for Colorado Parks and Wildlife programs including hunting license numbers and special hunting seasons. As a matter of Colorado statute, this commission is made up of sportsmen, those “actively involved in production agriculture,” parks users, and members of the public at large. Only one member out of 11 is required to have a defined interest in conservation, and not a single member is required to have any scientific expertise.
Colorado has a legacy of hunting predators, like grizzlies and wolves, to extinction. Many people here cling to cultural beliefs that prairie dogs are abundant and useless despite scientific evidence that they are imperiled and critical to healthy prairie ecosystems. We’ve arrived at a tipping point for wild animals and their ranges in Colorado, and we must become smarter to avoid repeating mistakes. That Colorado’s rule-making body for wildlife does not include biologists or ecologists must change, and that change starts with the people we elect.
Supporting Colorado Voters for Animals to lobby for policy change is very important, but you can help us do more for Colorado’s wildlife. You can help us identify and elect humane candidates to give the animals more of a fighting chance.