WALDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – “Your question, what happens next … I wish I knew,” said rancher Don Gittleson.

Gittleson raises cattle on a wide expanse of land close to Colorado’s border or Wyoming, and for years he said he has not had issues with wolves.

Now he said that has changed.

“Back when there were only two of them, they would go through the cows and get the cows stirred up but they didn’t attack the cows,” Gittleson explained. “Now there are eight of them, and that is a little different story.”

On Tuesday Gittleson found a cow, still alive but bleeding badly after a wolf attack. He said he was forced to put it down.

(credit: Don Gittleson via Steamboat Radio)

On Wednesday, he found another cow, this one dead and half eaten, with large parts missing from the corpse.

“Our hands are tied, yes, they just gave us some emergency stuff to do, but for the most part the stuff they gave us is not going to help this situation,” Gittleson said.

He believes the wolves adapt to the non-lethal actions to scare them away. He would shoot at them with live ammunition, if that were still legal.

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Rangeland scientist Matt Barnes understands what is happening right now in Walden is not what should be happening, but believes there’s a solution that doesn’t involve killing the wolves.

“That’s certainly concerning for the folks who live in North Park, it’s also concerning for the folks who care about wolves,” Barnes said. “Nobody wants to see this happen and everybody hopes it can be resolved one way or another.”

Right now he believes hazing the wolves is the best options for ranchers with cattle who are being attacked by wolves, and mentioned Colorado Parks and Wildlife and experts at Colorado State University are working on additional ways to help protect herds.

(credit: CBS)

Gittleson said he is willing to try anything, but so far the only thing that has worked long term is the old way: killing a few, and scaring the rest. He believes this problem will spread further than just his part of Colorado and expects this to become a bigger conversation the more the wolf population grows.

“They will move just like these came here, and so Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park … this will be what is coming to you.”

Spencer Wilson