The gray wolf sighted this week in northern Colorado originally came from Wyoming and is a dispersing male from the state’s Snake River pack, Wyoming Game and Fish officials have confirmed. The wolf was seen in Jackson County and also Grand County. The creature was wearing a radio collar and was last recorded Feb. 12 around South Pass in west-central Wyoming.
When a wolf leaves its natal pack or the one it was born into, it becomes a lone wolf. Wolf biologists also refer to this process as dispersal. In most cases, dispersal occurs between the ages of 1 and 2 years old, coinciding with sexual maturity.
In all, there are about 6,000 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Western Great Lakes and the last confirmed Colorado wolf sightings were near Walden in 2015. At this time, there’s no evidence of a resident pair or pack in the state.
Wolves used to be native to Colorado until they were eradicated around 1940, according to CPW. For the next sixty years or so, wolves were essentially nonexistent in the state. But in 2004 a few gray wolf encounters were reported, including one that was hit by a vehicle and another found poisoned. In 2015 when a hunter mistook a wolf for a coyote and shot and killed the animal north of Kremmling, Grand County.
Colorado wildlife officers will be keeping tabs on how many wolves are coming into the state and whether or not they are establishing a resident population. Under the Endangered Species Act, harming, harassing or killing a gray wolf for any reason other than self-defense is illegal.
Gray wolf supporters in Colorado are trying to gather 124,632 signatures by Dec. 13 to ask voters in 2020 whether the predator should be reintroduced on the Western Slope, although ranchers are sportsmen are providing resistance against the effort.