Rocky Mountain Wolf Quest
grade bands: high school
The Rocky Mountain Ecosystem Needs Your Help
A healthy and thriving ecosystem depends on an intricate web of relationships among its many different animals, plants, and environment. When a predator like the wolf is removed, this interconnected system is disrupted.
Wolves once played a leading role in ecosystems across the United States. As European settlers arrived in America and began to develop the land, wolves were almost entirely killed off. When people realized that wolves were a critical part of healthy ecosystems, they led reintroduction efforts to bring them back to some of their historic ranges. The debate is now happening about wolves in their historic range of the Colorado’s mountains.
Do we bring wolves back to our state, or is there no longer a place for these predators?
Colorado citizens will be voting in November 2020 to decide whether gray wolves will be reintroduced into Colorado’s mountains. On one side of the issue, pop culture and fairy tales have taught us to fear wolves, ranchers have concerns about livestock loss, and hunters worry that they will lose sporting opportunities. On the other side, science shows that wolves help keep elk and deer populations in check. This, in turn, helps prevent overgrazing in areas that are also habitat for other animals like beaver, otters, and birds.
Gray wolves once roamed across most of Colorado. The last wolves in the state were killed in the 1940’s after humans aggressively pursued their extermination. Now Colorado citizens will have a voice in deciding whether or not to bring the wolves back-- Can a managed wolf reintroduction program restore the balance of Colorado’s mountain ecosystems without significantly and negatively impacting human activities and livelihoods?
How Can You Help?
In this Quest, students will be challenged to research and debate the various positions around the reintroduction of wolves to the mountains of Colorado. The Quest will lead students on a journey to UNCOVER the facts and perceptions about wolves and their reintroduction, and to EXPLORE how wolf reintroduction would affect the people and ecosystems of Colorado based on what happened when wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park and other historic ranges.
This will prepare students to:
- Take a stand on their own informed position about wolf reintroduction, noting other valid sides of this complex issue.
- Help educate others in their community on facts about wolves, and the different ways the predator’s reintroduction could impact both people and the ecosystem.
- Creatively present an informational piece that educates citizens on the importance of voting on the wolf ballot initiative, and have the opportunity to have their work featured in a visible public forum in Colorado.
Geographic Focus: United States - Colorado
Target Grade Bands: 8th - 12th
Focus Ecosystem or Species Group: Southern Rocky Mountains