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Colorado secures free transportation for wolves

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be working with Light Hawk Aviation to transport wolves from Oregon to Colorado--for free.

DENVER — When Colorado voted to reintroduce wolves in 2020, December 2023 was a long way off. Now, within weeks of a possible wolf release date, Colorado Parks and Wildlife released a few new details about how this will happen. 

In a CPW Commission meeting in Burlington, Colo. on November 17, 2023, it was announced that a nonprofit called Light Hawk Aviation would help with the wolf relocation from Oregon. And they would be doing it for free. 

"You name it, we transport it," said Jim Becker, CEO of Light Hawk Aviation. "What we provide is transportation--usually a handler will fly in the airplane and make sure the wolf is ok, and by transporting it by air, there’s a lot less stress on the animal." 

Becker said this type of transportation would typically cost thousands of dollars. The group works with other nonprofits, federal and state agencies. The Colorado wolf reintroduction fits in with their mission to use aviation to make conservation efforts more efficient and effective. 

"We don’t pick sides with issues," Becker said. "We work with qualified organizations who have a mission, and we only work with endangered species or ones under recovery plans."

Light Hawk Aviation has 200 volunteer pilots that help with missions and about 25 of them are in Colorado. Becker said he could not say where the pilot for the wolf reintroduction will come from.

"We have enough pilots who want to fly, and we give them a real good reason--to help conservation organizations," Becker said. 

The wolf release date would happen anytime after Dec. 8, 2023. That is when the 10(j) rule would go into effect. This federal rule would list wolves as an "experimental population." It would give Colorado the ability to be more flexible with their management of wolves, which could include how and when a person could kill a wolf. 

Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado can take up to ten wolves from Oregon. Becker said Light Hawk specializes in these types of missions because they require flexibility--they do not know how many they will need to transport until they are gathered. 

"We are adept at these kinds of missions that require a lot of sophistication and flexibility," Becker said. 

Light Hawk has been around for 40 years, and has been helping with Mexican gray wolf and red wolf relocations for ten years. Becker said it is a lot of work, but worth it. 

"It's a chance to move the needle on conservation," Becker said. "Every day we do something to make the world a little better and that’s a great way to live." 

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