Colorado is still seeking wolves for its reintroduction program and remains confident it will find some from another state before a year-end deadline, a wildlife official said.
“We anticipate that we will find a source in time to release wolves prior to the Dec. 31, 2023, deadline,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joey Livingston told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.
Meanwhile, it’s apparent that Colorado’s famed North Park wolf pack effectively no longer exists, he said. Two males are the only wolves verified to be left in Jackson County, Colorado, which was that pack’s territory.
Paws On The Ground Expected By End Of Year
Colorado’s wolf reintroduction program was initiated by Proposition 114. It was passed by Colorado voters in 2020 by a margin of 50.91% to 49.09%.
It called for wolf reintroduction to begin by the end of 2023.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave final clearance for Colorado to establish an “experimental population” of gray wolves, which will be under protection of the Endangered Species Act for at least the first few years.
That means wolves in Colorado may not be hunted. Across the state line, the parts of Wyoming adjacent to Colorado are in the so-called “free-fire zone.” Wolves that stray to the Wyoming side of the line could be shot at any time, with no bag limits.
“It is anticipated that wolf reintroduction efforts will require the transfer of about 30 to 50 wolves in total over a three- to five-year time frame,including beginning releases by this winter,” Livingston said.
Wolves Could Come From Oregon Or Washington
Gov. Mark Gordon announced earlier this year that Wyoming will flatly refuse to provide any wolves for Colorado’s reintroduction program.
So, Colorado has been looking elsewhere.
“CPW has made formal requests for wolves with the states outlined in the Final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan. States to which we have sent a formal request are: Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho, and all are aware of the timeline,” Livingston said.
“It is desirable to source wolves from the northern Rockies states, like Idaho and Montana, or other suitable donor sites — Oregon, Washington — as recommended by the Technical Working Group, a team of experts CPW assembled to inform our wolf reintroduction program,” he said.
Idaho has since also declined to send wolves and Montana remains uncommitted, but talks continue with Washington. There’s also hope that Oregon might provide some wolves, Livingston said, but nothing has been finalized.
“We are confident that we will gain the cooperation of one or more states in this effort,” he said.
North Park Pack All But Gone
Wolves started to reclaim Colorado on their own a few years ago. A male and female wolf that had made it across Wyoming from the Greater Yellowstone area met and began having pups in Jackson County, Colorado, starting the North Park Pack.
That pack was sometimes the source of controversy when members were suspected of killing rural residents’ dogs, as well as livestock.
It’s not certain how the pack was diminished to just the two surviving males.
“There are two wolves collared by CPW in Jackson County. These animals are 2101, the male that was the breeding male from the pack, and 2301, one of his male offspring from the litter born in 2021,” Livingston said. “CPW is currently only aware of these two wolves in Colorado. CPW is not aware of any wolf mortalities in Colorado in 2023.”
Three female wolves shot in Wyoming near the Colorado state line last year might have come from the North Park Pack.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.