Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed Senate Bill 24-171, “Restoration of Wolverines,” authorizing the reintroduction of wolverines to the state. Wolverines were extirpated from Colorado in 1919, and despite isolated sightings since 2000, there is no known breeding population. The bill, introduced on March 4, allows Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to begin reintroduction efforts starting in the 2024-25 fiscal year, funded by $750,000 from the Species Conservation Trust Fund. This effort follows a comprehensive assessment of suitable habitats and the potential for wolverine reintroduction.

Wolverines require large, remote territories with diverse food sources and are currently absent from Colorado, despite the state having significant potential habitat. Colorado represents about 20% of wolverine habitat in the lower 48 states, yet there have been no verified observations in the past seven years. Historically, wolverines were driven out due to unregulated trapping and predator poisoning. Today, about 300 wolverines live in fragmented areas of the northern Rocky Mountains, but barriers such as highways hinder their southward expansion.

The reintroduction plan involves capturing wolverines from other regions, acclimating them at the Frisco Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, and releasing them in designated zones in Colorado. The goal is to release 30 wolverines over two years, starting with non-pregnant females and males to maximize survival chances. The plan includes measures to support their integration, such as providing food and ensuring genetic diversity.

Map of Wolverines historic and current habitat

Unlike the wolf reintroduction, wolverines are solitary with vast territories, making them less likely to conflict with livestock. Their diet consists mainly of small animals and carrion, and attacks on livestock are rare. CPW’s plan emphasizes careful monitoring and support to ensure the reintroduced population thrives, with benchmarks for success based on breeding and offspring survival. This reintroduction aims to restore a native species to its historical range, enhance biodiversity, and improve the genetic diversity of wolverines in the lower 48 states.

Wolverine Habitat Cores Locations and Dens

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