By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
It’s not likely that a northern Colorado wolf pack that originated with wolves from Wyoming has split and spawned a second pack, says a wildlife biologist.
There have so far been only “potential sightings” of wolves outside the established territory of Colorado’s North Park pack, Travis Duncan, a wildlife biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told Cowboy State Daily.
“A potential sighting does not mean a pack exists,” he said. “A pack usually includes a dominant male and female parents, their offspring and other breeding adults.”
About two years ago, a female and male wolf that wandered separately into Colorado from Wyoming met and became a breeding pair in the North Park area. That formed the nucleus of Colorado’s only known established wild wolf pack.
Meanwhile, officials are still investigating the deaths of 18 dead calves near Meeker, Colorado, well to the south. Although they were first suspected to be wolf kills, evidence is suggesting that might not be the case after all, Duncan said.
Did Bacteria Kill The Calves?
When the 18 calves were found dead in October, it was initially thought that “three to five” of them might have had wounds consistent with wolf attacks, he said.
The calves were thought to have died over the course of about two weeks in an area spanning a few miles, he added. Efforts to find wolves nearby have proven fruitless.
“Staff efforts to locate wolves in the area have included flyovers, camera traps, howling surveys and searching for scat and tracks,” he said. “Those efforts have not turned up any evidence of wolves in the area.”
Duncan also said the agency has analyzed the hair and scat samples and that “none of the samples collected have been determined to be from wolves.”
A veterinarian has suggested the calves could have been killed by a clostridial bacteria, which can damage cattle flesh and could be mistaken for bites, he said. It’s also possible that some of the calves were attacked by dogs.
Wolf Spillover Into Wyoming?
The North Park pack was started by natural migration, but Coloradoans still want more wolves.
Voters there in 2020 passed a measure to authorize reintroducing more wolves to the Centennial State. The goal is to start releasing those wolves no later than the end of 2023.
There have been reports of wolves from Colorado crossing back over into Wyoming. Three subadult females, thought to have been members of the North Park pack that crossed the border, were legally shot in Wyoming in October.
However, it’s not likely that wolves crossing into Wyoming from Colorado will show up in large enough numbers or survive long enough to establish new packs here, Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily.
Even so, at least some lone wolves are evidently traveling far and wide throughout Wyoming.
Lander rancher and business owner Ron Hansen told Cowboy State Daily he recently found huge wolf tracks on his family’s property west of town.
Wolves have occasionally been spotted there, but haven’t attacked any cattle, he said.