by Jenna Holakovsky
Grey wolves formerly occupied the majority of North America, but were almost entirely eradicated early on since the country’s colonization. Over time, both scientists and the general public have made efforts to reintroduce wolves to the former territories they occupied. An example of this was the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park 25 years ago. With the success seen in reintroductions, other parts of the country have rallied to reintroduce such a valuable species.
“…the wolves aren’t waiting!”
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project aims to improve the public’s understanding of the biology, ecology, and re-establishment options for the grey wolf in Colorado (CO). They achieve this through education, art installations, film, dance, music, outreach, and more. One of their most recent achievements includes collecting 211,093 signatures for a petition to put a wolf reintroduction plan on Colorado’s 2020 ballot.
While the state has formally announced this reintroduction plan will be on the 2020 ballot, the wolves aren’t waiting! Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) received an inquiry earlier this month regarding a hunter’s report of a bull elk carcass in Irish Canyon surrounded by large, “dog-type” tracks. Upon the CPW officers’ investigation, it was confirmed this past Monday, January 6th, that the tracks were from wolves!
This is not the first time recently there has been evidence of wolves in CO. Numerous sightings have been made in the last decade with only a few confirmations. Two sightings made earlier in 2019 caused an investigation on whether or not grey wolves were returning to their historic ranges in CO. Formerly, they had been eradicated from the state since 1940. This investigation led CPW to release a photo of a black canid wearing a radio collar that is presumed to be CO’s first wolf sighting since 2015.
Furthermore, in October of 2019, there was a report of 6 large canids in the same vicinity as the recently discovered carcass. With the two most recent reports, CPW officials believe there is an actual pack in northwest CO. CPW is still examining the activity of this pack and ask locals to report any evidence of their presence.
“…there is a community game of iSpy the Wolf, yet not all think this is fun.“
Many locals are doing just that. One witness caught 0:07 seconds of what appears to be 2 grey wolves before dawn in October of 2019 and uploaded it to YouTube. Other members of the public have also been asked to report any howls, yet this evidence is not as convincing since other canids’ howls, such as dogs and coyotes, can cause confusion to the untrained ear. It is almost as if there is a community game of iSpy The Wolf, yet not all think this is fun.
Residents of Moffat County, a county covering the Northwest corner of CO bordering both Wyoming and Utah, were the first to oppose the reintroduction of wolves in CO during the summer of 2019. Yet this county was the first to see an actual pack reported in the state in decades!
Some concerns the general public have are addressed with the efforts of organizations like the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project. Through the project, infographics, educational blog posts, and outreach efforts are making a noticeable impact where over 200,000 people signed the petition for a reintroduction option on the 2020 ballot. One crucial part of reintroductions and conservation of this species is debunking myths and correcting misinformation so the general public can make informed decisions.
In this, we refer to our former statement within our ‘Position on Delisting the Grey Wolf’ Blog posted in March of 2019:
“We have come to know many benefits brought on by the presence of the wolf, despite the reputation it has unfairly earned. Below are a series of sources that we hope will combat some of the misinformation that surrounds this magnificent animal in regards to depredation and predator control.
- There are a limited number of losses of livestock attributable to wolves. 
- Hunter success in Montana is not influenced by wolves. 
- Wolves represent a very small danger to humans or human activity. 
- Wolves have been, and continue to be, blamed for decreases in ungulate populations. Some decreases are more heavily influenced by other factors such as weather than they are by wolves.   
- Wolves helped relieve ecological pressures imposed by overpopulation of ungulates (Isle Royale, Yellowstone).   ”
Wolf Park is in support of the bolstering population of wolves in CO and their protections as an endangered species. Additionally, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds the public “that wolves are federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”
To learn more on this story, see the links provided below.
- OutThere Colorado: ‘Wolf pack roaming Colorado for first time in recent history’
- Craig Press: ‘Once eradicated in state, gray wolves spotted in Colorado counties’
- The Aspen Times: ‘Gray wolves initiative on 2020 ballot, but wolves are already in Northwest Colorado’
- Coloradoan: ‘Wolf sighting in Northern Colorado could be first confirmed in state in four years’