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State lawmakers propose unprecedented plan to reintroduce predator species: 'The best chance of restoring the population'

"It's just people wanting the animal and wanting it now."

"It's just people wanting the animal and wanting it now."

Photo Credit: iStock

There is big news in the wolverine world, and this time, it doesn't come from the Marvel Universe. Supporters of real-world wolverines may be seeing more of them, as a new bipartisan bill has been introduced that proposes reintroducing the endangered animal into the mountains of Colorado. 

The wolverine was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in November 2023 due to concerns over the effects of our overheating planet on their already small population. They are one of the rarest carnivores in the United States, and as detailed by The Guardian, the bill has the support of lawmakers and scientists alike. 

The wolverine was trapped and poisoned to near-extinction in the United States a hundred years ago. The new proposal is part of creating a comeback for the animal, as it is unlikely that enough will make their way into Colorado, find each other, and recolonize on their own. 

Wildlife biologists in Colorado first made a reintroduction plan over 25 years ago, but it was shelved due to a possible endangered species listing. While the reintroduction of wolverines into the state looks more hopeful than it did a couple of years ago, there is still much uncertainty. 

To help ease some of the uncertainty, the bill stipulates that any reintroduction would require the creation of a 10(j) rule classifying the relocated wolverines as a non-essential, experimental population. 

This means the state's well-visited ski areas could operate normally even if wolverines were reintroduced. To help protect agricultural interests, the bill also requires the state to make a plan to compensate ranchers for any livestock lost to wolverines.

Jeff Copeland, a wolverine researcher, thinks wolverines will eventually migrate to Colorado on their own. He added that taking them from other areas would disrupt those populations, and some would likely either die during the trapping process or not survive after release. 

Similar efforts with the animal have been largely untested, causing what he sees as unnecessary risk. "It's just people wanting the animal and wanting it now," he told The Guardian. 

However, similar reintroduction and conservation efforts — like wolves in Colorado and North Carolina and bison in Canada, to name a few — have yielded great results and gone a long way in helping save some of the world's most endangered species. 

Despite some hesitancy and skepticism, overall support for the bill and hopes for the wolverine's well-being is high. 

"I think this gives us the best chance of restoring the population to Colorado," said Jake Ivan, a wildlife research scientist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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