North American wolverines back in Colorado after more than 30 years of advocacy!

Denver, Colorado - Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed into law the state's restoration of the North American wolverine after more than 30 years of advocacy for the once-native species!

Wolverines are remarkable creatures, but extremely rare and at risk of extinction.
Wolverines are remarkable creatures, but extremely rare and at risk of extinction.  © Collage: IMAGO/Imagebroker

In a bill signed on May 20, Colorado lawmakers have officially begun the process of reintroducing the wolverine, a species native to Colorado which were wiped out by human activity in the early 20th century.

Sponsored by Democratic Senator Dylan Roberts and Republican Senator Perry Will, the bill ended up as a bipartisan piece of legislation that was crafted in collaboration with residents of the regions in which wolverines would be reintroduced.

"I am thrilled to welcome Wolverines back to Colorado!" Polis said.

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"Today, we begin to add Wolverines to the list of animals reintroduced to Colorado, ensuring Colorado remains the best state in the nation for eco diversity and outdoor enthusiasts."

Compensation rules for livestock losses caused by wolverines

There are only a little over 300 wolverines left in the wild in the continental US, leading to their classification by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as "endangered" and at risk of extinction.

Now signed into law by Polis and the Colorado General Assembly, the bill "authorizes the reintroduction of the North American wolverine in the state by the division of parks and wildlife."

The goal set forward in the bill and initiated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife will, if successful, see 30 female and 15 male wolverines reintroduced in Colorado national parks over the next three years.

There are also "certain requirements for the reintroduction of the North American wolverine." Among them are rules for compensation for livestock owners who suffer losses caused by wolverines.

Wolverine reintroduction to follow similar action on other species

Colorado governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law, legislating the state's reintroduction of wolverines.
Colorado governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law, legislating the state's reintroduction of wolverines.  © IMAGO/USA TODAY Network

Colorado's move to reintroduce the wolverine, a creature almost totally absent from the continental US and famous for its insatiable appetite, follows similar moves by the state legislature to bring back the gray wolf.

Attempts to protect endangered animals including the wolverine have faced setbacks over recent months, after Republicans removed life-saving protections as part of amendments made to the 2023–2024 appropriations bill back in January.

Alli Henderson, the southern Rockies' director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said of the bill that it "is a first step towards restoring native wolverines to Colorado’s high mountain habitat, righting a century-old wrong."

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The statement referred to the fact that wolverines largely disappeared from the region due to excessive trapping and poisoning towards the beginning of the 1900s, and has continued to see deterioration due to human impacts including climate change.

Henderson went on to thank the state's governor and legislature, saying that "Coloradans are excited to see these furry, fierce creatures return to their native range on our snowy peaks."

"We only have about 325 wolverines left in the lower 48 states, so this bill is a vital lifeline for these tenacious animals," Henderson explained. "We’re hopeful that wolverines will soon be thriving in their native high alpine habitat."

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO/Imagebroker

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