Wolf spotting article link (contains a graphic picture of an elk carcass).DENVER – Wolves have been spotted for the second time in a year in northern Colorado, suggesting that a pack of gray wolves might now live in the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Wednesday just days after a ballot question about reintroducing gray wolves to Colorado was approved for the November ballot.
CPW received an eyewitness report of six wolves traveling together in far northwestern Colorado in October. And last week, an elk carcass was found nearly cleaned of all its meat near Irish Canyon in northwestern Colorado's Moffat County – just a few miles from the eyewitness sighting, CPW said.
The elk carcass that wolves are suspected to have scavenged in northwestern Colorado in recent weeks.
The eyewitness and fellow hunters said they saw the wolves near Colorado’s borders with Wyoming and Utah and one captured two of the wolves on video.
"The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together," CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke said. "In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report."
CPW said officers went out to investigate the elk carcass after it was report and found several large tracks made by canids – the family to which wolves, dogs and other similar animals belong – in the snow nearby, which wildlife managers said were consistent with wolf tracks.
Canid prints seen in the area of a scavenged elk carcass that wildlife officials believe could belong to wolves in northwestern Colorado.
CPW said the condition of the elk carcass “is consistent with known wolf predation” and said in a news release that there was no doubt wolves are in Colorado.
"It is inevitable, based on known wolf behavior, that they would travel here from states where their populations are well-established," Romatzke said. "We have no doubt that they are here, and the most recent sighting of what appears to be wolves traveling together in what can be best described as a pack is further evidence of the presence of wolves in Colorado."
CPW says it will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal partners to manage the wolves as they move into the area and that it is still operating under its current management direction.
Another wolf was spotted in February 2019 in Jackson County and was confirmed to be from Wyoming’s Snake River pack from collar tracking data.
"The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years," Romatzke said. "In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.”
Gray wolves once lived across Colorado, but the last ones were killed around 1940. Earlier this week, a ballot question was approved for November in which Colorado voters will decide whether to reintroduce gray wolves back into Colorado – on public land west of the Continental Divide – under a CPW plan that would be put together by 2024.
CPW asks anyone who spots or hears any wolves in Colorado to report them on their Wolf Sighting Forum.
Over the next month, an army of volunteers will continue fanning across the state making sure they’ve gathered enough signatures to put a much-debated question on the November 2020 ballot: Should voters reintroduce gray wolves onto public lands in western Colorado where they once roamed but haven’t since the 1940s?
If volunteers successfully gather the necessary 124,632 signatures by Dec. 13, you could get a shot at deciding whether Colorado gets its wolves back along with whether to re-elect President Donald Trump or send a new U.S. senator to Washington. A group backing Initiative 107 says it already has enough signatures, but is gathering more just to be safe.
If the question makes the ballot, it will be the first time voters anywhere in the nation will decide whether to reintroduce gray wolves.
Backing this potential ballot measure is some serious money; the effort already has raked in nearly $1 million, with much of it flowing in from out of state. In a state with a growing rural-urban divide, the question pits wolf lovers and some environmental- and conservation-minded folks against some ranchers and sportsmen and opponents who decry “forced wolf introduction.” Others say Colorado, once part of the wolf’s native prowling range, is just not the same place it was when wolves prowled here. Colorado’s neighborhoods and cities are encroaching further into wild spaces, and demographers expect the state’s population to nearly double in the next 30 years.
Those who want the wolf back say reintroduction would help restore the state’s ecological balance as it has in places like Yellowstone National Park. Wolf packs there cut down an out-of-control elk herd that had over-grazed grasslands and caused soil erosion, among other problems. Some supporters have indicated wolves could even help mitigate the “sixth great extinction event” — an ongoing mass extinction event of species as a result of human activity — because of the wolf’s effect on its surrounding ecosystem.
But opponents say bringing wolves back now through a state popular vote is a big bad idea. It would be an exercise in “ballot-box biology” — putting a wildlife science question in the hands of average voters — according to Mark Holyoak, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which opposes the idea. Recently, county commissioners in Garfield unanimously approved a non-binding resolution opposing wolf reintroduction. Their fellow Western Slope commissioners in Mesa and Moffat counties have passed similar resolutions.
Simmering beneath the wolf question is a larger tension about what’s best for everyone, from those who live along Colorado’s bustling I-25 and I-70 corridors to those who live in its expansive rural areas. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, some see the potential ballot measure as one that “allows wolf-lovers in Denver and Boulder to make a decision that would affect ranchers and hunters in the western part of the state.” More recently, a man writing in The Montrose Daily Press said of the wolf measure, “a group of folks, mostly over in the urban Front Range” wants to “put 50 serial killers on the loose in our mountains.”
The rhetoric is heated, and perhaps unlike other issues voters could decide next year, this isn’t a partisan debate; it’s a more philosophical one about nature and society.
If it passes, the new law starts a series of steps that would end with some eventual number of wolves being introduced onto public lands in the western part of the state. The ballot language also provides compensation for those who lose their livestock to wolves.
Initiative 107 would direct the Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to introduce wolves here “using the best scientific data available” and also to hold public hearings to gather “scientific, economic, and social considerations.”
The commission would have to figure out the details — how many wolves exactly, where they would come from, how they’d be managed, what the compensation program would look like — based on these hearings and testimony. The commission also would have to develop methodologies for determining when the gray wolf population is sustaining itself and “when to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered or threatened species” as provided by state law.
The plan would be to start reintroducing wolves to Colorado by 2023.
Full reintroduction article. I recommend reading the whole article. It goes into the history of wolves in the U.S., arguments for and against wolves being reintroduced into Colorado, discussions on funding, politics, and Colorado's rural-urban divide. I appreciate how nuanced the article is. It includes perspectives from wildlife biologists who are pro-"wolves in Colorado" but not pro-reintroduction, and others who think that wolves may not be able to survive coming back naturally. It's not a simple situation, and strikingly different from the Yellowstone reintroduction. I get the impression that the effort as a whole stems more from impatient wildlife (extremist) groups than biologists.
I'm actually surprised it took so long for a pack to arrive naturally, seeing as Colorado is so close to Wyoming, though they might be dead within months. There's already a Colorado "Stop the Wolf" Coalition. Here's a link to their page: https://www.stopthewolf.org/. I appreciate their inclusion of a clip about a family comparing a wolf attack to a horror movie towards the top of the page. Very non-alarmist.
It really does feel like there's been an explosion of wolf activity in the last few years as they reclaim their original range, though more likely it's been gradual this whole time. In twenty years, wolf-spotting tourism might not just be limited to Yellowstone.