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This information was provided by the Wildlands Network. NewWest's bulletin board offers press releases with a wide variety of views and news about the West. DeBeque, Colorado -- A DNA test of scat samples is all that remains before a western Colorado ranch owner knows for sure if wild wolves are present on his land. Paul R. Vahldiek, Jr., majority shareholder and CEO of The High Lonesome Ranch, a mixed use landscape sprawling across Colorado’s west slope northeast of Grand Junction, awaits results of the DNA test as the final piece of evidence needed to confirm wolf habitation. One of the ranch managers and an expert wildlife tracker have already reported actual sightings of wolves, and positively identified tracks and howling on the vast acreage.

Colorado Rancher Says Wolves May Have Arrived; Welcomes Their Return

This information was provided by the Wildlands Network. NewWest’s bulletin board offers press releases with a wide variety of views and news about the West.

DeBeque, Colorado — A DNA test of scat samples is all that remains before a western Colorado ranch owner knows for sure if wild wolves are present on his land.

Paul R. Vahldiek, Jr., majority shareholder and CEO of The High Lonesome Ranch, a mixed use landscape sprawling across Colorado’s west slope northeast of Grand Junction, awaits results of the DNA test as the final piece of evidence needed to confirm wolf habitation. One of the ranch managers and an expert wildlife tracker have already reported actual sightings of wolves, and positively identified tracks and howling on the vast acreage.

Committed to conservation of private lands and wildlife, Vahldiek has been working for several years to determine the baseline ecology of the ranch. To further that work, the rancher hired landscape ecologist and large carnivore specialist Cristina Eisenberg to study predator-prey relationships on the land, which was believed to be wolfless. Vahldiek hoped to complete these studies prior to any natural recolonization of wolves. Much to his and Eisenberg’s surprise, it now appears that the storied carnivore has already taken up residence on the property.

Asked about evidence for wolf presence on The High Lonesome Ranch, Eisenberg said, “Wolf sightings, tracks, howling, and other wolf sign gathered over the past eighteen months suggest likely wolf presence, pending DNA analysis results.”

Vahldiek first became interested in the role that wolves play in regulating healthy landscapes when he attended a talk by Eisenberg given at the Boone and Crockett Club’s annual conservation meeting at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch. Her presentation made him realize that The High Lonesome Ranch’s approximately 300-square-miles of deeded private and permitted BLM lands might be likely habitat for natural wolf recolonization.

“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 aspen groves on this property,” notes Vahldiek. His interest in the ecological benefits of keystone species led him to attend further meetings on large landscape-scale conservation convened by the international conservation group Wildlands Network, and he recently became a member of that organization’s board of directors.

Wildlands Network’s mission to reconnect and restore wildlands across North America to allow continued movement of wide-ranging species inspired Vahldiek to pursue an even larger, more visionary goal. While he remains committed to conserving his ranch and abiding by the laws and regulations pertaining to any new wolf inhabitants, Vahldiek also is committed to conserving this landscape as a key wildlife linkage within what Wildlands Network calls the “Western Wildway,” a 5,000-mile-long stretch of plateaus, canyons and mountains between Alaska’s Brooks Range and northern Mexico’s Sierra Madre.

Michael Soulé, an internationally known conservation biologist also serving as Wildlands Network’s president, is clear about the value of Vahldiek’s efforts to recognize the ecological importance of wolves. “The return of wolves to Colorado would be proof that safe landscape connections are key to maintaining critical, keystone species in the West,” says Soulé.

Vahldiek, with scientific assistance from a science team lead by Eisenberg, Soulé, and wildlife ecologist Roger Creasey, says he hopes to work closely with his neighbors and with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) to create a sustainable, science-based wolf management plan that will allow recovery for any wolves that choose the ranch as home. Vahldiek and his science team recommend that any wolf management plan enacted by CDOW include realistic financial incentives and technical assistance for the ranching community in order to ensure minimal wolf-livestock conflicts.

Vahldiek says he understands that The High Lonesome Ranch must learn to live with these newfound inhabitants and knows that, while controversial, wolves will likely improve the health of the flora and fauna of this ecosystem.

Wolves that naturally migrate to Colorado from Wyoming would be federally protected as endangered species and could not be relocated, removed, or killed. Wolves have been absent from Colorado since they were completely exterminated by federally-funded bounty hunters by the 1940s.

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Comments

  1. Hayduke says:

    To the Vahldiek’s and others on the High Lonesome, I say good on ‘ya! It’s been a long time coming. May this be only the beginning of a robust recovery for wolves in Colorado.

  2. Bob Brister says:

    If wolves are confirmed on his ranch then all the wolves have to do is migrate west along the Book Cliffs and we’ll have wolves in Utah! I hope to hear wolves howl in the Book Cliffs and in the Uinta Mountains.

  3. toni morris says:

    i hope they do bring them back,they were here before us,hopefully long after were gone

  4. j collins says:

    Thank god someone in the west sees the pristine beauty of this most intelligent animal. my associates and I have quit supporting montana and especially Idaho with our tourist dollars, and are urging similar ones to do the same. sure, wolves do damage, but only a fraction of the purest outdoor person. should we put a bounty on backpackers? if so, a politician pelt should be worth millions. everything in life isn’t about the bottom line. there are a lot of things in the world i hate, but i don’t go around trying to destroy them. if we can’t be tolerant of animals, how can we get along with our neighbors? Isn’t that the reason why most of the world is at war right now. someday it would be an honor to shake Mr.Vahldiek’s hand.

  5. biff shank says:

    WOLVES WONT MAKE IT IN CO.PRIVATE LAND,SHEEP CATTLE AND HORSES.AND NOT TO MENTION NO ONE WANTS THEM.

  6. lee says:

    The World Without Us…
    The Storms of my Granchildren…
    The Revenge of Gaia…

    All coming true.

    $10 gas lets the wolves return and will keep the goobers in the trailer.

  7. Chad M. Roberon says:

    Let this be. They were here before we were. What will become of our history? I and my husband care very much about our habatit. We want so much for our grandchildren to know what it’s all about. How in the world could anyone take this away from each and every one of us?

  8. wohlf says:

    all those critics of the wolf’s return should look up “keystone predator” to understand what this actually means. clinging to prejudice is just a proof of your mind’s poverty. besides, the HLR runs cattle, they have goats and chickens and horses and oh, guess what, there is people. they hike and ride but prefer to do so with the wolves than to judge them by an image given to them by cowardly humans unwilling to study what they fear, unwilling to give this creature a fair chance.
    the HL is doing an amazing job, i support them a 100% and hope others will follow.