Colorado has its first gray wolf pups in 80 years, state wildlife officials said Wednesday.
A state biologist and district wildlife manager each spotted a litter of at least three wolf pups over the weekend with their parents, two adult wolves known to live in the state, Gov. Jared Polis announced in a news release. Most wolf litters have four to six pups, so there could be more.
The discovery comes after Colorado voters narrowly approved a ballot measure last year that requires the state to reintroduce the animal on public lands in the western part of the state by the end of 2023. Penalties for violations include fines, jail time and a loss of hunting license privileges.
“These pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families,” Polis said in a statement.
Gray wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned into extermination in Colorado in the 1940s.
Officials last year confirmed the presence of a small pack of wolves in northwestern Colorado.
Cattle ranchers, elk hunters, farmers and others in rural areas have said the reintroduction of wolves is bad policy driven by urban majorities along Colorado’s Front Range. They say it is a threat to livestock and to a $1 billion hunting industry.