September 15, 2023

News Release - USFWS releases final environmental impact statement & draft decision to designate a gray wolf experimental population in Colorado

Q: What are the differences between the draft documents and final versions in this announcement? 

A:  The final versions of these documents updated and clarified language and definitions. The final documents also include the addition of a provision to allow the take of gray wolves significantly impacting ungulate populations, as defined in the 10(j) rule, on Tribal reservation lands of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes within Colorado. 

Q: Are there differences between the state of Colorado’s wolf management plan and the flexibilities provided in the federal 10(j) designation? 

A:  Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife Commission has published a Final Wolf Restoration and Management Plan for reintroducing the species. The state management plan provides for differing management tools based on achieving recovery targets. As the state achieves these recovery targets, tools available to the public under state laws and regulations may be more restrictive than what is allowable under the Service’s proposed federal rule. Instead of re-initiating the 10(j) process every time recovery targets are achieved, the Service is granting the state management authority aligned with the final targets. The public should become familiar with both federal and state laws and regulations. Colorado Parks and Wildlife can answer further questions about state laws and regulations. 
Q: What will happen to gray wolves reintroduced in Colorado that leave the state? 

A:  The state of Colorado is working with surrounding states to discuss their plan to handle gray wolves that leave Colorado. The Service supports these efforts and anticipates continued close coordination with Colorado and the surrounding states. The Service’s support includes additional authorities to capture and relocate gray wolves that leave Colorado under a pending 10(a)(1)(A) permit. Any additional questions should be addressed directly by CPW, the agency conducting the reintroduction. 

Q: Did the Service consider impacts on Mexican wolves? 

A:  The environmental impact statement considers possible impacts from the Colorado gray wolf 10(j) designation on Mexican wolves. The state of Colorado is in active discussion with surrounding states about how their reintroduced gray wolves will be managed as they cross state borders. The Service remains committed to recovering Mexican wolves and anticipates issuing a 10(a)(1)(A) permit to help avoid and minimize potential impacts to the species by allowing Colorado Parks and Wildlife to capture and relocate gray wolves that leave the state.  

Q: What management flexibilities is the Service providing in the 10(j) experimental population designation? 

A:  The Service is designating a nonessential experimental population of gray wolves to provide additional management flexibility for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Tribes to address potential conflicts between wolves and humans, and wolves and domestic animals. The designation of a nonessential experimental population allows reintroduced wolves to be managed by hazing, removal, or relocation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Tribes, or designated agent(s) for domestic animal depredations. Under special conditions and reporting requirements in the 10(j) rule, the public may harass or remove wolves attacking livestock or working dogs.  Additional state-level requirements may apply and be more restrictive. The 10(j) rule extends additional management authority to the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes to remove gray wolves that may be significantly impacting ungulate populations. Details about the conditions and requirements for the take of reintroduced wolves will be available in the final 10(j) rule the Service is publishing no sooner than 30 days after the draft ROD is announced. 

Q: What are the next steps? 

A:  With the draft ROD and FEIS complete, the next step is for the Service to issue a 10(j) experimental population designation. This action will include publishing the Final ROD and the 10(j) rule itself no sooner than 30 days after this announcement is published in the Federal Register. The Service intends to publish the final ROD and 10(j) rule to be effective before the end of 2023. 

Q: Is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroducing wolves to Colorado? 

A:  No. On Nov. 3, 2020, Proposition 114, now codified as Colorado Statute 33-2-105.8, was approved by Colorado voters requiring the state of Colorado to reintroduce gray wolves by Dec. 31, 2023. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is the agency responsible for reintroducing wolves to Colorado. The involvement of the Service is related to ensuring appropriate management and management flexibility of the species, given their current status in Colorado as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. For more information about the state of Colorado’s reintroduction of gray wolves, including the Final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan, please visit the CPW Wolf Management page

Q: What is a Section 10(j) designation? 

A:  The Service uses a range of partnerships and conservation tools to recover endangered and threatened species. Section 10(j) of the ESA allows the Service to designate a population of a listed species as experimental if it will be released into a habitat outside the species’ current range. A 10(j) rule would help CPW manage the potential impacts of gray wolf reintroduction to stakeholders while ensuring that the reintroduction and management of wolves are likely to be successful and contribute to the conservation of the species. Learn more about 10(j) rules and experimental populations

Q: How can an experimental population be designated in Colorado where wolves already exist there? 

A: Experimental populations must be separate from other populations of the species. While several documented wolves currently reside within northern Colorado, the definition of a population of gray wolves as defined by the Service requires two breeding pairs, raising at least two offspring for two consecutive years. The wolves present in northern Colorado have not met this definition of a population; thus, the Service can designate wolves reintroduced by the state of Colorado as an experimental population.  

Q: Can the state of Colorado reintroduce gray wolves without the Service’s 10(j) experimental population designation? 

A:  Yes. The state could reintroduce gray wolves without the 10(j) experimental population designation, however, without management flexibility provided by the Service through a 10(j) designation, or other means, the state would be limited in its options to manage the federally endangered species appropriately. A 10(j) experimental population designation allows for the expanded management flexibilities noted above that would otherwise not be available. The Service is on track to issue a final 10(j) decision before the end of 2023. 

Q: What is the current status of protections for gray wolves in the lower 48? 

A:  Following a February 2022 court ruling, gray wolves outside of the northern Rocky Mountains (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and portions of Washington, Oregon, and Utah) in the lower 48 are currently listed as endangered, except for Minnesota where they are listed as threatened. For the latest information on the status of the entity in the lower 48, please see the Service’s Gray Wolf Recovery News and Updates page

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The Ecological Services Program works to restore and protect healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants and the environments upon which they depend. Using the best available science, we work with federal, state, Tribal, local, and non-profit stakeholders, as well as private land owners, to...


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