problem: elk chewing the bejeebers out of
Rocky Mountain National Park.
One solution: adding a pack of wolves to
Another problem: wolves wandering into
Boulder and Loveland.
Still, the National Park Service is slated
this week to propose, as one alternative,
adding a wolf pack outfitted with radio
collars to chase the elk herds ravaging the
park's aspen and willow stands.
Wolf biologists already have warned that
keeping the animals in the 226,000-acre park
may be next to impossible.
"I can't conceive of a way to keep wolves
in the park," said University of Minnesota
biologist and wolf expert David Mech. "I just
don't know how one would do that."
Park Service officials concede the idea is
"One biologist told us, 'If you do this,
prepare to have your world turned upside
down,"' said Therese Johnson, a park
Wolves were successfully reintroduced at
Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park, but
Yellowstone is almost 10 times larger than
"You can't keep them from going," said
Michael Phillips, who headed the Yellowstone
red wolf program as a biologist for the Turner
Endangered Species Fund. "The question is,
'Will they stay in the park long enough to
have an impact on the elk herd?"'
Wolves have been known to wander 500 miles
in search of a home. Estes Park sits just
outside the park, while Boulder, Loveland and
some Denver suburbs are about 50 miles away.
Park officials stress they are not trying
to reintroduce wolves to Colorado and are only
using the predators as a wildlife management
Under the Park Service's wolf alternative,
only a handful of wolves would be released in
the rugged terrain.
These animals would be under constant
surveillance and would be trapped and returned
to the park if they left.
While park biologists hope the wolves would
settle down to dine on park elk, sharpshooters
also would be employed to bring the herd down
from 3,000 animals to between 1,200 and 2,100.
"The park really doesn't have much wolf
habitat, especially in winter," said Gary
Skiba, a state Division of Wildlife biologist.
"Our question is, 'What happens when they
Other alternatives the Park Service is
considering include using elk fertility
control agents or a more extensive cull of the
Details of the proposals are scheduled to
be released this week in a park newsletter.
The Park Service, however, can't seem to
please anyone. Boulder-based Sinapu, an
advocate of returning wolves to Colorado, is
also criticizing the plan.
"Wolves are not a tool," Sinapu spokesman
Rob Edward said. "We should not be treating
them as some sort of pest-control device."
Staff writer Theo Stein can be reached at