Gray wolves once roamed the entire state of Colorado, but like many other states, were hunted to near extinction in the 1940’s. While a lone wolf has passed through the state over recent years, wolves have not called the state home in many decades – but that is about to change.
On Monday, December 18, five gray wolves were reintroduced to Colorado’s mountains west of the Continental Divide in a historic move that was years in the planning.
Voters expressed their desire to have the endangered species back in its natural habitat in 2020 with the proposal, Proposition 114, to reintroduce wolves by December 31 of 2023. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) spent three years researching the best area to release the wolves and listening to concerns of locals.
While many ranchers were not in support of the reintroduction, CPW pressed on.
The decision was made to release the wolves in Grand County as part of the effort to “create a permanent, self-sustaining wolf population” in Colorado.
A news release posted by CPW explained how the two juvenile female, two juvenile male and one adult male were taken from different packs in Oregon and flown to Colorado to start packs of their own.
“The gray wolves were captured in Oregon where CPW veterinarians and biologists evaluated them to determine if they were fit for relocation to Colorado. Criteria for release included the age, sex, health and body condition of each animal.”
The wolves were fitted with a GPS satellite collar and vaccinated before being released. Many of those involved in making this dream a reality were present when the wolves were set free and headed for the mountains.
“Today, history was made in Colorado. For the first time since the 1940s, the howl of wolves will officially return to western Colorado.”, states Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
CPW’s goal is reintroduce 30 to 50 wolves over the next 3 to 5 years with the same process of capturing wolves from nearby Rockies states from different packs.
CPW Director Jeff Davis said, “We’ll continue releasing animals based on our plan to have wolves not just survive but thrive in Colorado as they did a century ago.”
Gray wolves are an endangered species and protected federally and by state law. CPW shares that penalties for killing a gray wolf include fines up to $100,000, time in jail and loss of hunting privileges.
The wolves will be managed by CPW who are proud that Colorado is on track to join the list of states who have successfully reintroduced wolves like Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon. They have extensively studied what has and hasn’t worked in these states and remain in contact with their wolf management teams to learn from each other.
See more FAQs on Colorado’s wolf reintroduction here. This is a huge step in the right direction.
Check out the release video below and don’t forget to share!
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