Wolf pups finally confirmed in Colorado but opinions are split

Kelly E.

They're here! Are you excited?

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Wolf pups in ColoradoWikimedia commons

No photos yet, but there are definitely wolf pups now in Colorado.

This was what scientists had their fingers crossed for last month when they discovered they had mislabelled a wolf as male. The exciting news that the wolf was infact female, and potentially part of a mating pair, meant pups could be in the area. In announcing the news, Governor Jared Polis named the pair "John" and "Jane".

Wolf pups are typically born around May and so scientists set up observation cameras while doing their best not to disturb the den or frighten off the wolves. It has now been confirmed that there are indeed at least three pups. The first wolves born in Colorado since the 1940s when they were eradicated by hunters.

"Our hope is that we will eventually have photos to document this momentous occasion in Colorado's incredible and diverse wildlife history, but not bothering them remains a paramount concern," said Libbie Miller, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist.

Controversial decision

The decision to reintroduce and encourage a wolf population back into Colorado was voted on with the Colorado Proposition 114, the Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative, November 3, 2020. The proposition was approved with 50.91% voting yes.

The campaign to reintroduce wolves was lead by The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF), associated with the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Wolf Project.

RMWAF President Rob Edward explained, "Gray wolves are the ecological engines of the northern hemisphere." Edward said:

"Since the 1940s, when Colorado's last wolf was killed, our ecosystem has suffered, knocked out of balance. Without wolves keeping them alert and moving around, elk and deer strip away vital streamside vegetation, leading to erosion and the disruption of habitat, threatening beavers, songbirds, and even native trout."

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Wolves back in Colorado could restore ecosystemRobert Larsson on Unsplash

But not all Colorado residents are convinced. The announcement of pups has split the population into those celebrating and those who are concerned about what it could mean for other animals, farming, and residents themselves.

In response to farmers and ranches concerns, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) are coming up with a predation program they hope will put people at ease. County commissioner, Cody Davis, stated “We’re really hoping to get at the table to hopefully balance those stakeholders concerns, the livestock industries’ concerns, and the hunters’ concerns.”

Unhappy residents thinking about taking matters into their own hands should think twice. Hunting of the wolves is strictly prohibited.

As a state endangered species, killing a gray wolf in Colorado results in a fine of $100,000 and jail time, as well as a loss of hunting privileges. Harassment of wildlife is also illegal in the state. --Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Facebook

Find out more at education session

The third online education session about Colorado's wolf reintroduction will be held on Wed., June 16 from 6 - 8 p.m. The public is welcome to attend and will cover "how states like Montana work with agricultural producers to prevent and reduce wolf depredation on livestock and how producers are compensated for losses." (CPW)

Find more information and pre-register at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife education page.

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