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‘A Tremendous Accomplishment’: Colorado Releases Five Gray Wolves Amid Controversy

Colorado is the latest state to reintroduce wolves into its wilderness. After years of planning, wildlife officials released five gray wolves from Oregon in Colorado’s Western Slope yesterday. Voters approved the state’s plan to bring the wolves back in 2020. 

While many call the decision a win for conservation, some worry what a wolf population will do to wildlife and livestock. These concerns are evident in the comments on Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) social media post about the release. Some commenters suggest that gray wolves were never part of Colorado’s ecosystem, while others voice their concern about cattle ranchers.

CPW says whether people like it or not, the gray wolf was once part of the state. The last known wolves in the state were documented in 1940. People hunted the animals to near extinction. In recent years, a gray wolf pack has reentered the state without the intervention of humans, with confirmed sightings in 2019, 2020, and 2021. 

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Wildlife biologists inspect the wolves before their release. (Source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

State officials say they plan to maintain a “viable, self-sustaining wolf population” in Colorado. They plan to find a balance between people, wolves, and livestock.

“Today’s reintroduction of the gray wolf is a tremendous accomplishment for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the citizens of Colorado,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. “This would not have been possible without the tireless work of CPW staff and the Parks and Wildlife Commission, the members of both our advisory boards and the citizens and stakeholders who engaged and weighed in to make our wolf management plan the best for all Coloradans and for wolves that once again grace our Colorado landscapes.”

Colorado’s Wolves 

Wildlife officials helped select these initial five wolves based on the animals’ health, age, sex, and body condition. The chosen wolves from Oregon were fitted with GPS satellite collars and flown to Colorado.

The five wolves include:

  • 2302-OR: Juvenile female, black color, 68 lbs., Five Points Pack
  • 2303-OR: Juvenile male, gray color, 76 lbs. Five Points Pack
  • 2304-OR: Juvenile female, gray color, 76 lbs., Noregaard Pack
  • 2305-OR: Juvenile male, black color, 93 lbs., Noregaard Pack
  • 2307-OR: Adult male, gray color, 108 lbs., Wenaha Pack

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to release more wolves. The goal is to release more than a dozen by mid-March of the new year. The state aims to have 30 to 50 wolves in the next three to five years.

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One of the wolves released in Colorado’s Western Slope. (Source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has played a pivotal role in restoring the gray wolf population, starting with restoring wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The population has grown in places like Wyoming and Idaho in the last few years. In other places like New Mexico and Arizona, work continues to rebuild the Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf. 

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