Proverbial Lone Wolf Spotted in Northern Colorado

Conservationists push to reintroduce more wolves as a “welcoming committee”
Press Release | March 3, 2006
For more information contact: Rob Edward | 303.447.8655

Gray wolfConservationists welcomed news that the Colorado Division of Wildlife has obtained video footage of a black, wolf-like animal from an area west of Rocky Mountain National Park known as North Park. A local Colorado Division of Wildlife manager who was following-up on a report from a local rancher took the video. A short segment of the footage can be viewed by visiting this link.

Although the agency cannot be certain the animal in the video is a wild wolf, evidence strongly suggests that it is. “If this animal is, indeed, a wild wolf, it would be one of very few wolves that have made the treacherous journey from Yellowstone to northern Colorado,” said Rob Edward of the carnivore advocacy organization Sinapu. The last wild wolf to enter Colorado from Wyoming was killed on I-70 near Idaho Springs in 2004. “Sadly, Colorado will not likely see a breeding population of wolves in the next several decades unless we reintroduce them, as we have successfully done with Canada lynx,” said Edward.

Government trappers exterminated the last known breeding population of wolves in Colorado in the 1940s. Likewise, by the 1970s trapping drove Canada lynx to extinction in the state. “Colorado’ wildlife managers have successfully reintroduced lynx, so we have no doubt that they would be able to restore wolves. They just need to craft a plan and put it into action.” Lynx, said Edward, are much more difficult to re-establish than wolves. “Wolves will be happy anywhere there’s enough elk or deer to eat,” he said. “The only other thing they need is a little human tolerance.”

“The North Park wolf shows that there is still a tenuous connection between Colorado and the Greater Yellowstone wolf population. Now, we need to put some wolves on the ground here so that the next wolf that wanders down from Wyoming has a welcoming committee,” said Edward, underscoring the fact that scientific evidence suggests that Colorado is not likely to be naturally recolonized by wolves from Yellowstone. Further, Edward noted that the alarming pace of energy development in southern Wyoming threatens to further diminish the ability of wolves to safely roam south to Colorado.

Wolves that amble into Colorado are legally protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Edward noted that harassing, injuring or killing wolves is punishable by sizable fines and prison time under the federal law.

In 2005, the Colorado Wildlife Commission adopted a management plan that states that wolves entering Colorado should be allowed to roam freely, wherever they find habitat and prey. Although the state presently has no management authority over wolves (because they are an endangered species), Edward indicates that the state’s official stance on wolves is progressive.

“We welcome any and all wolves that venture into Colorado,” said Edward. “Colorado’s wild places need wolves–and the sooner the better.”
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