Adam Baca is no stranger to first-of-its-kind wildlife work. So when Colorado needed the first Wolf Conflict Coordinator in the state’s history, Baca didn’t hesitate to offer his expertise.
Lending a helping hand perhaps best defines Baca’s role at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Whether he’s on scene aiding livestock producers with non-lethal methods to minimize wolf conflicts or training CPW wildlife officers in the various techniques, Baca is the go-to person in helping Colorado prepare for a future with gray wolves restored to the state.
“My priority is to meet people where they’re at, both literally and metaphorically,” Baca said. “I see my role as engaging with livestock producers as well as wolf advocates and, of course, our staff here at CPW. I’m here for all sides of this issue and to provide support in how we move forward in a productive manner. Together, we can really help reduce and mitigate any conflicts or tensions that might arise.”
Baca, who is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology from New Mexico State University. During summer breaks from college, he completed several internships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Colorado, Maine and Utah.
In late 2017 after moving to Montana, he reached out to his past connections with the USDA and was selected for what was initially a seasonal pilot program within Wildlife Services focusing on non-lethal mitigation methods to reduce livestock losses to predators such as grizzly bears and wolves.
“I knew I had to commit myself all in to see how it would go and if I could succeed in it,” Baca said. “The position in Montana was the first of its kind, and from the success of the pilot program came the non-lethal only initiative with Wildlife Services. It was historic then, and I didn’t realize just how big it would be.”
In the summer of 2022, a month after giving a presentation on his work to CPW staff during a virtual conservation conference, Colorado Parks and Wildlife hired Baca as its first Wolf Conflict Coordinator.
“We were tickled to be able to bring Adam to Colorado from his position in Montana,” said CPW Deputy Southwest Region Manager Matt Thorpe. “His credibility in this field of work and passion for helping people solve unique challenges are qualities that we knew would really help us jump start this new position within CPW.”
Baca’s experience was needed immediately to assist in Jackson County, where wolves had naturally migrated into Colorado from Wyoming.
Baca, who serves under CPW’s Game Damage Program, has become firmly entrenched in Jackson County ever since, helping producers install non-lethal deterrents such as turbo fladry.
“It’s pretty interesting to go from Montana where they’ve been dealing with this animal for the last 30 years to a place here in Colorado where it is new,” Baca said. “You can see that emotions are heightened, and we are all trying to come prepared with the best possible plan.
“Being on the ground is about meeting people where they’re at and where they’re ready to work with you, otherwise how can we be productive moving forward? I am here to listen to frustrations, address concerns, and see if there is interest in trying to get ahead of the issues. Having that direct interaction is critical to provide a way forward for people who may not necessarily see it.”
Baca said no two incidents he has ever responded to have been the same. What works for one operation may not work for another, and it is that problem-solving dynamic that motivates him on a daily basis.
“Knowing that the solutions I come up with can make a real difference for people, that’s really incredible and humbling,” he said.
Baca will remain in Jackson County until wolves are reintroduced throughout more of the Western Slope of Colorado in Dec. 2023. Then, he will move to a more centralized location. Along with his focus on stockpiling tools and materials for use when more wolves are on the ground, he is also continuing public outreach efforts hoping to help prepare as many people as are willing to listen.
“What’s going on in Colorado with wolf reintroduction is historic, but for me the pressures associated are nothing new,” he said. “I understand the job and hope to do it well, that’s my focus right now.”
Baca hopes the work done in Montana and what is to come in Colorado will provide pathways for others to follow, and he is committed to engaging the next generation of livestock producers and wildlife advocates in efforts to find common ground and healthy coexistence between predators and people.
“A lot of people have helped me along the way, and it is a duty of mine to keep that history going and help those who continue this work,” he said. “I want to thank all the people on the ground for the continued support in this role as a new individual to CPW as well as the producers for their continued support of this effort and engagement. I am also grateful to the different non-government organizations, and agencies who have come together around this effort to progress this issue. It is truly appreciated.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first part of a series profiling Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff involved in gray wolf reintroduction in Colorado. CPW is proud of the work of its highly-trained experts coordinating reintroduction efforts following the passage of Colorado Proposition 114, now state statute 33-2-105.8, that directed CPW to develop a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves in designated areas in Colorado west of the Continental Divide no later than Dec. 31, 2023.
Written by John Livingston. John is the Southwest region public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.