No. Of course not, right? Wrong…maybe.
While the Colorado Parks and Wildlife officially states that wolves have been eradicated from Colorado since the 1940s, that might not be the case. Prior to widespread poisoning and hunting that drove populations down, gray wolves thrived in Colorado, and they might be making a comeback.
Approximately five feet long with a bite force that can surpass 1,200 pounds per square inch (compared to a human’s 160), this powerful predator thrives in areas where remote land is filled with prey species. Colorado has plenty of both – backcountry and prey.
Considering that, it might not be a surprise that recent years have produced a spike in wolf sightings around the state. In fact, there have been so many that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office issued an official press release predicting that wolves will likely reestablish their population in the Centennial State sometime soon. The same press release address a growing number of unconfirmed sightings within state boundaries, probably due to wolf populations in surrounding states expanding their territory. While this press release mentions that no packs, dens, or other evidence of wolf presence have officially been observed, a change is possible in the “near future.”
Though wolves might not be “officially” established in Colorado, there are several cases in recent years where wolves have made an appearance in the state. Here’s a list of a few confirmed instances:
- In 2004, a wolf was killed in a collision with a vehicle near Idaho Springs. This wolf had a tracker on it, traveling to Colorado from the Yellowstone area.
- In 2009, a wolf was found poisoned in Rio Blanco County. This wolf traveled to Colorado from Montana.
- In 2015, a hunter killed what he thought was a coyote a few miles north of Kremmling. The US Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the incident and it was determined that the animal was a gray wolf.
- In 2015, a trail camera captured images of what appeared to be a wolf near Walden. This was unconfirmed by testing, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife consider this sighting to be credible.
While it’s probably a safe assumption that a hiker won’t encounter a wolf on a Colorado trail, there is circumstantial evidence that suggests wolves may be making a comeback in Colorado, with or without intentional reintroduction. Similar to the case of the grizzly in Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife website does host a form for one to report wolf sightings.
Perhaps nothing is more telling on the subject than this quote from Bob Broscheid, Colorado Parks and Wildlife director: “Although it remains rare, a credible sighting now and then cannot be considered highly unusual anymore. I believe it is only a matter of time before [wolves] begin to move here in larger numbers and we must prepare for that eventuality.”
If you think you’ve spotted a wolf, keep your distance. Never try to kill the animal, as doing so can result in criminal charges with a penalty of a year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
Looking to see this beautiful creature up-close in a controlled environment. Schedule an appointment at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation for a free tour (donations accepted).
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