Colorado Parks and Wildlife outfitted a female gray wolf pup with a GPS collar in North Park on Wednesday, after darting the animal with a tranquilizer from a helicopter. She is one of at least eight gray wolves in the area and the first born and collared in the state.
The species was stamped out in Colorado by hunting and trapping in the 1940s. But in 2020, mostly urban voters narrowly approved a ballot measure to reintroduce gray wolves to public lands on the Western Slope by the end of 2023.
Around that time, Colorado officials confirmed a pair of wolves had wandered into the northwestern part of the state, likely from Wyoming where the female was collared. Last summer, wildlife officers spotted a litter of six pups in a den with the pair.
North Park is now ground zero in a controversy over the wolves’ return, which has been accompanied by attacks on cattle and dogs in the ranching and hunting community north of Walden.
Some residents have taken to patrolling their livestock at night after waking up to find dead or wounded cattle. They are allowed to haze the animals, but are prohibited by state law from killing them. Shooting a gray wolf could mean a $100,000 fine and a year in jail, due to the species’ protected status.
Gray wolves are an endangered species in Colorado, but lost federal protections during the Trump administration and have been aggressively hunted in other states.
The pup collared Wednesday was born to a female wolf identified as F1084 — dubbed Jane by Gov. Jared Polis — who migrated to Colorado in 2019 from the Snake River Pack near Yellowstone National Park. A GPS collar she was fitted with stopped transmitting, prompting officials to collar another member of the pack.
Her mate, then about 4-years-old and 110 pounds, was collared last year just across the Wyoming state line. An agency contractor netted the male from a helicopter in Colorado, but he escaped and headed north.
“The second GPS collar in this pack will allow our biologists and wildlife managers to learn more about the behavior of these naturally migrating wolves,” CPW Director Dan Prenzlow said in a release.
Information from the collars is limited and not monitored in real time. Wildlife officials primarily rely on wolf prints, scat and other physical evidence to verify the presence of wolves in an area, the release said.
The collared pup was given an exam and appeared to be in good health, CPW Terrestrial Section Manager Brian Dreher said.