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State lawmakers approve wolverine reintroduction

The Southern Rockies of Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming are prime habitat for the North American wolverine.
Creative commons
The Southern Rockies of Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming are prime habitat for the North American wolverine.

Wolverine reintroduction in Colorado all started with the Canada Lynx. "Colorado Parks and Wildlife first identified a need to reintroduce wolverines back in 1998 at the same time that they identified a need to reintroduce Canada Lynx," said Megan Mueller, conservation biologist for Rocky Mountain Wild. "And they ended up deciding at that time that they didn't have enough resources to proceed with both reintroductions at the same time. So they decided to reintroduce Canada Lynx first."
In 2010, the reintroduction of the Canada Lynx was declared a success, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) got going on wolverines. The agency started talking to stakeholders like livestock growers, anglers, conservation groups, the ski industry. "And doing all of the technical planning that they would need to do a successful wolverine reintroduction," said Mueller. All that technical planning culminated in Senate Bill 24-171. But the process isn’t over yet.
The North American wolverine was finally listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to climate change in November, 2023. The listing opens the door to the Section 10J rule process to declare wolverines an experimental, non-essential population. "It's intended to facilitate reintroduction. That's the whole purpose of 10J rules," explained Mueller. "But the thing is, the wolverines will still be protected under the ESA from any activities that are really going to threaten them."
Mueller expects the 10J process to take maybe two years. At the same time, CPW will work on a technical plan much like the wolf reintroduction and management plan. "Once those two things are in place, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is also going to create a communications plan for where they'll be released and when," she said. "Then, on the really off chance that a wolverine does prey on a sheep, there'll be a fund for compensation, so that will get set up. My guess is that all of that will take place somewhere in the two to three year range."
That means the plan to actually go and get wolverines, probably from Canada or Alaska, is still a long way off.

Amy Hadden Marsh’s reporting goes back to 1990 and includes magazine, radio, newspaper and online work. She has previously served as reporter and news director for KDNK Community Radio, earning Edward R. Murrow and Colorado Broadcasters Association awards for her work. She also writes for Aspen Journalism and received a Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of the Rockies award in 2023 for a story on the Uinta Basin Railway. Her photography has also won awards. She holds a Masters in Investigative Journalism from Regis University.