Sighting comes as voters will be asked this year whether to reintroduce endangered gray wolves to state
By BRUCE FINLEY | The Denver Post
Wildlife officers investigating a cow carcass in northwestern Colorado this week found evidence of at least six wolves, the second indication of the animals’ return this month, prompting Gov. Jared Polis to welcome wolves to the state and urge people to make room.
“This is very likely the first pack to call our state home since the 1930s. I am honored to welcome our canine friends back to Colorado after their long absence,” Polis said in a statement Wednesday confirming the Colorado Parks and Wildlife discovery.
“While the animals have naturally migrated to our state and their presence draws public interest, it is important that people give them space,” Polis said.
Two state wildlife officers in Moffat County found the cow carcass Sunday and, testing to see whether wolves might be present, made howling sounds, agency spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell said. Wolves howled back, Ferrell said, and the officers through binoculars spotted at least six about two miles from the carcass.
“After watching them for about 20 minutes, the officers rode in to get a closer look,” CPW northwest region manager JT Romatzke said. “The wolves were gone but they found plenty of large tracks in the area.”
The tracks measured approximately 4.5 inches to 5.5 inches.
This follows the discovery of evidence of wolves in the same area two weeks ago — days after state election officials placed a signature-driven measure to re-introduce wolves on this year’s ballot. The measure will ask voters whether to require state wildlife commissioners to reintroduce endangered gray wolves by the end of 2023 on public land in western Colorado, west of the Continental Divide. State wildlife commissioners also would be required to set up a fund to compensate livestock owners for any losses.
Lone wolves have visited Colorado periodically.
State wildlife officials investigated the possibilities of reintroducing wolves in the state. They decided to oppose a re-introduction. But residents of the state pushed through the ballot initiative, which was approved early this year.
Campaigners with the Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition have rallied local government leaders in nearly two dozen counties to oppose the ballot initiative.
Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund president Rob Edward said the discovery of wolves in northwestern Colorado adds urgency to the need for a state-backed species reintroduction.
“We need to move ahead with re-introduction to make sure Colorado is in the driver seat for management and recovery and that we actually get to the point of having a healthy population,” Edward said. “We welcome any wolves that wander into the state and we want to make sure that future wolves who wander here will have somebody to greet them and to reproduce with.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife director Dan Prenzlow said state officials will not take action against wolves.
“We have the leading experts on wildlife management and species recovery working for our agency, but while wolves remain federally protected they are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Prenzlow said. “We will continue to work with our federal partners and monitor the situation.”
Killing a wolf can result in federal charges, including a $100,000 fine and a year in prison. State officials urged people who spot or hear wolves to contact CPW and fill out a report available on the agency’s website.