DNA analysis confirms animal killed near Kremmling was a wolf
After an extensive analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., the agency confirmed late Thursday afternoon, May 28, that the animal killed near Kremmling on April 29 was a gray wolf.
The animal was shot by a legal coyote hunter, who immediately notified Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), which then notified the Fish and Wildlife Service. It is not clear whether the hunter, whose name has not been released, will be subject to prosecution.
The gray wolf is protected by both the federal government and the State of Colorado as an endangered species.
“Taking” an endangered species is punishable by a fine up to $100,000 and a maximum prison term of one year.
It’s not uncommon for lone wolves to turn up far from their known range.
Gray wolves first began naturally migrating to northwest Montana in the mid-80s, said Mike Jimenez, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northern Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator.
“It’s really common,” Jimenez said. “Almost all wolves eventually leave the pack they were born in and go off to find another pack.”
Some wolves tend to travel much farther than others.
The federal government reintroduced gray wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-90s, and since then they’ve expanded throughout western Montana, northwest Wyoming and much of central and northern Idaho, Jimenez said.
Wolves have also established populations in Washington and Oregon.
Lone wolves have been found as far afield as South Dakota, Colorado and even the Grand Canyon, Jimenez said.
“It’s kind of a statement of how successful that recovery program was in the Northern Rockies,” Jimenez said.
At this point, there’s no telling where this particular wolf came from, and the Fish and Wildlife Service generally doesn’t keep track of these types of dispersions, Jimenez said.
At this point, Jimenez said there’s no reason to believe that there is an established population of wolves in Colorado.
The Fish and Wildlife Service routinely investigates incidents affecting endangered species and will conduct this investigation with the assistance of CPW, according to a statement prepared by the agency.
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The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Colorado Highway 125 in Grand County while crews work to clear the route of mud, debris and snagged trees piled up on various bridges and guardrails.