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Discovery of gray wolf pups won’t change Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s reintroduction work

Wildlife officials say the confirmation of the first wolf family in Colorado since the 1940s will help biologists establish more gray wolves in the state.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff tranquilized and placed a GPS collar on a gray wolf -- M2101 -- in north-central Colorado after he was spotted traveling with gray wolf M1084 from Wyoming’s Snake River Pack. (Provided by Colorado Parks & Wildlife)
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That Colorado wildlife officials have sighted gray wolf pups in Colorado – the first in the state in 80 years — will not delay or slow the state’s voter-mandated reintroduction of the predators.

“The ballot measure requires the establishment of a self-sustaining population, and this pack is not a population,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell said.

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In November, voters narrowly approved a measure directing Colorado Parks and Wildlife to reintroduce wolves in Colorado by the end of 2023. The agency has launched a public campaign to gather input and form a reintroduction plan that includes species management strategies and a program to reimburse ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.

Phase one of that campaign — managed by the Keystone Policy Center and detailed at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting Thursday in Trinidad — will include more than 40 meetings in the coming months. The center is planning 13 in-person open houses on wolf reintroduction on the Western Slope and 17 “geographic focus group” meetings in western Colorado. There are plans for 10 smaller, invitation-only meetings for groups of 15 to 20 participants around the state. And a statewide, online town hall meeting on wolves is planned as well. The agency will announce dates and specific locations for all those meetings soon. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife last week announced a 17-member “technical working group” made up of wildlife biologists and land managers from across the Rocky Mountains as well as  agricultural representatives and elected leaders from Colorado. That group will meet in private. A 19-member “stakeholder advisory group” – with conservationists, ranchers, biologists, landowners, wildlife advocates and elected leaders from all corners of Colorado — will meet publicly and propose considerations for the plans developed by the technical working group. 

Last week, Colorado wildlife officials reported seeing three wolf pups with their parents in northwest Colorado, where a wandering wolf was first sighted in 2019. The pups were the first spotted in Colorado since the 1940s, when the species was nearly eradicated from the Southern Rockies. 

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday announced the sightings, saying the passage of reintroduction legislation means “these pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners did not mention the wolf-family sighting during their Trinidad meeting, where they heard from the Keystone Policy Center about plans for public meetings.  

But wildlife biologists will be closely watching the two wolves — known as M2101 “John” and F1084 “Jane”, who naturally migrated into the state — to see how they adapt to Colorado with their pups. Yes, the confirmation of the breeding wolves is historic, Ferrell said this week, but it doesn’t change the reintroduction plan. 

“What it does do is give our field staff the opportunity to observe and glean additional data from these two naturally migrating – and now breeding – wolves, and document how they are navigating life in our state,” she said. “This will be additive to our conversations with other state and federal partners as we move through our process.”


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