Once eradicated in Colo., gray wolves spotted in Grand, Jackson counties
Two recently reported appearances of gray wolves in Colorado have led the state parks and wildlife officials to investigate whether the predator is returning to its historic homeland.
Photos of a gray wolf spotted in Jackson County were shared by Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Parks and Wildlife on their social media sites on Tuesday with a notice that the agency is investigating two sightings, including another one in Grand County.
Biologists from CPW are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the investigation because gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Investigating a reported sighting requires biologists to go out into the field and look for tracks, signs, scat or visuals on the animal, according to Lauren Truitt, assistant director of information and education for CPW.
While wolf management falls to the federal government, Colorado wildlife officers keep tabs on how many wolves are coming into the state and whether or not they are establishing a resident population, Truitt said.
At this time, there’s no evidence of a resident pair or pack in the state.
Officers can also attempt to collect information from any operational tracking collar, such as which wolf it is and where it came from. Truitt said officers are currently trying to access that information for the wolf sighted in Jackson County.
In 2016, the federal government created a wolf-conservation area in Northern Colorado that restricts the methods federal wildlife managers can use to mitigate wildlife conflicts. The conservation area includes all of Grand, Jackson, Gilpin and Boulder counties and portions of Moffat, Routt, Eagle, Summit, Clear Creek, Jefferson, Adams and Larimer counties.
Wolves used to be native to Colorado until they were eradicated by around 1940, according to CPW. For roughly six decades afterward, wolves were essentially nonexistent in the state.
That all changed in 2004 with a few gray wolf encounters, including one that was hit by a vehicle and another found poisoned. A case closer to home happened in 2015 when a hunter mistook a wolf for a coyote and shot and killed the animal north of Kremmling.
Apart from these confirmed cases, which all involved verifiable wolf carcasses, there have been a number of reported sightings across the state over the years. Grand County’s proximity to the Wyoming border, a state where wolves have already been reintroduced, indicates that more wolf encounters are likely to happen locally in the future.
Previous efforts to reintroduce wolves to the state have been met with resistance from ranchers and farmers.
This story has been updated to include comment from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
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