Why conservationists want to bring wolves back to Colorado.
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Rocky Mountain Wolf Project

When you think of the quintessential American species, what comes to mind? Buffalo? Bald eagles? What about ... the gray wolf?

It probably wasn't the first thing you thought of, but maybe it should be.

After all, the gray wolf was once common all across the country, frequently seen — or heard howling — by America’s earliest settlers everywhere.


Image via iStock.

But unlike the American buffalo or the bald eagle, the gray wolf got a really bad rap early on.

Instead of admiring or cherishing them, people were simply afraid of wolves. And when settlers moved out West, wolves there were especially hated by ranchers who didn't want them killing their cattle.

Unfortunately, this meant that for centuries, wolves were hunted and trapped for sport and to protect livestock.

By the end of the 19th century, ranchers, farmers, and settlers weren’t the only ones killing wolves: A government-sponsored extermination plan was launched, and by the 1950s, wolves were mostly wiped out from their historic ranges in the lower 48 states — including Colorado.

Wolves are still largely absent from Colorado today, but they don’t need to be.

Studies have shown that a great habitat and healthy prey populations — notably elk — are available for gray wolves throughout the western half of Colorado, including areas in the Flat Tops.

A view of the Flat Tops Wilderness area in Colorado. Image via USDA/Flickr.

For conservationists and wildlife management, it’s just a question of how to bring the wolves back.

One way to do this is to just help wolves migrate naturally from surrounding states. In Colorado’s neighboring states, wolf populations have been growing, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials. Because these animals are known to travel long distances while hunting prey, they could come into Colorado on their own.

Gray wolves are currently protected by the Endangered Species Act in Colorado, so killing a wolf is against the law and can result in serious penalties — including criminal charges, a year in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. This means that if a gray wolf crosses state lines into Colorado, it should be protected — though there has been a lot of pressure to weaken federal wildlife protection laws lately.

Image via iStock.

There have already been occasional one-off sightings of gray wolves in Colorado, and last year, state park officials issued a statement letting residents know they should expect to see more wolves in the state because of the wolves' tendency to migrate.  

But letting it happen naturally is not only slow, it's not guaranteed to work. Many migrating wolves end up running across dangerous highways and roads and not reaching their ideal habitats.  

And, given that a recent court ruling could allow wolves to be shot on sight in much of Wyoming, it is unlikely that a viable population of wolves could come to occupy Colorado through natural recolonization because the journey to get there would simply be too dangerous.

In addition, for some wolf packs, there is just simply too much distance between their current homes up north and western Colorado to make the journey.

So another way to bring wolves home to Colorado is through reintroduction into wilderness areas.

A wolf pack in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park. Image via iStock.

Reintroduction efforts were a success in Yellowstone National Park, and they helped restore the natural balance of the ecosystem. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has helped restore wolves to other states too, including New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, and Montana.

Unfortunately, in January 2016, the Colorado Wildlife Commission rejected a proposal to deliberately re-establish wolves in the state. This was largely because ranchers as well as some hunters and locals campaigned against it.

But conservation groups, like the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, aren’t giving up just yet. Instead, they're working to change people’s minds about wolves.

Image via iStock.

Wolves are not ruthless killers; they actually go out of their way to avoid humans. Attacks on humans in North America are virtually unheard of, and no lethal attack by wild, healthy wolves has ever been confirmed in the lower 48 states; only one or two have been recorded in the Canadian and Alaskan wilderness.

And while wolves do hunt big game, such as elk, that doesn't mean that they are going to kill them all. In fact, they don't —healthy herds of elk and deer can be found throughout wolf country in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. And wolves can also help other species by keeping the number of deer and elk under control, which allows certain animals like songbirds, beavers, and bears to thrive.

People also love to see wolves in nature; after all, wolves are some pretty incredible creatures. Some travelers even go wolf-watching in Yellowstone. Wouldn't it be great if they did the same in Colorado?

We can bring wolves back to Colorado if scientists develop and implement a re-establishment plan that relies on reintroductions (like what was done in Yellowstone) and if they listen to the needs and concerns of local residents. And from there, the wolves can take care of the rest.

If you want to help the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project bring wolves back to Colorado, check out their website and sign up to find out more about ways to help.

A wolf pup. Image via iStock.

Wolves are an important part of our natural landscape and an important part our history. Maybe someday soon they will roam Colorado once again.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."