wolf pack File photo. Photo Credit: milehightraveler (iStock).

For comparison with the included video, this file photo shows what a roaming pack of wolves might look like from afar. Photo Credit: milehightraveler (iStock).

A video of a pack of 'wolves' near Colorado's central mountain town of Fairplay was widely circulated around the internet in recent weeks, raising suspicions that the state's limited population of the species may be spreading out of the northwest region.

While the Park County Sheriff's Office had previously noted that they believed the pack of canines caught on video on April 25 were escaped domestic dogs – specifically St. Bernard cross-breeds, Colorado Parks and Wildlife sent a team to the field to further investigate.

Officials met with the reporting party to narrow down the location of the sighting, ultimately deciding to visit the spot on April 26 and collect samples. The team made a cast of prints found in the snow and collected blood, urine, and hair for genetic analysis. A howling survey was also conducted.

The tracks found at the scene were about four to four-and-a-half inches in length, which is big for a domestic dog and would be something that increases the probability that the track could be from a wolf. Experts also noted that melting snow could have resulted in a fluctuation of size between the time the initial print and the cast were made.

A cast made of a print found in the snow. Photo Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

A cast made of a print found in the snow. Photo Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Genetic results later revealed that samples collected in the vicinity of the sighting came from domestic dogs.

To further confirm fairly solid suspicions that the sighting was of domestic dogs, an aerial search was conducted on April 27 to look for additional canine tracks. The only tracks spotted were those of elk, a bobcat, and a coyote.

"For a pack of four to five wolves, we would have found some deer or elk carcasses or livestock carcasses and we didn't find anything, even where the initial report came in," said Area Wildlife Manager Mark Lamb.

According to CPW, this case is a good example of how a single source of evidence can be misleading. While the video raised suspicion and the tracks were non-conclusive, DNA evidence revealed that domestic dogs were at the scene. While that, in itself, may not rule out wolves also being present at some point, the department was confident that the aerial search for obvious wolf behavior did.

“Especially on something as sensitive as a wolf sighting, we always want to do everything in our power to investigate it to the best of our ability to confirm, or not confirm what it is. We want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence and making sure everything is correct before we start releasing any information," said Lamb.

The topic of 'wolves in Colorado' has been hot for years, with Coloradans voting to reintroduce the species to the state in 2020 by a narrow margin. The lone wolf pack confirmed to be present in the Jackson County area are not wolves that were reintroduced, but wolves that naturally migrated into Colorado from Wyoming. While wolves are set to be formally reintroduced in the future, it hasn't happened yet.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife requests that the public reports possible wolf sightings online via the 'Wolf Sighting Form.'

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(5) comments

MalamuteCzar

Malamutes

rastadoggie

If that's a pack of domestic dogs y'all dog owners are in trouble (I hope). They can be dangerous and destructive to wildlife and people. And look how much waste of time and resources they've wasted here.

LEA4Animals

Why in the world would you post an article about the siting and location of wolves? You are alerting ranchers and others who are against the population of wolves In Colorado. These animals need to be protected. They are not a novelty. They are a necessity for the balance of nature.

Lyle

Maybe you would like to see a video of a pack of wolves dragging a newborn calf away from it's mother and it being eaten alive while it's bawling. It's disgusting and they are not necessary to balance nature in our state that is so impacted by humans already.

Slapper22

What Lyle said.

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