After a group of six wolves were confirmed in Northwest Colorado this past January—the first pack in the state since the 1940s—there are now reports that three of these wolves have been killed in Wyoming along the Colorado border. The prospects of the remaining wolves are uncertain.
The news comes just under two months before the November 3 general election, when Colorado voters have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 114, which would instruct Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop a science-based plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves in Colorado by the end of 2023. For months, opponents have argued that the presence of this wolf pack shows Proposition 114 is unnecessary. This latest news underscores why reintroduction is necessary to restore a permanent population.
“We are saddened by the loss of these pioneering wolves—the first pack in Colorado in over 75 years,” said Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “These killings are a somber reminder that there is little chance for wolves to reestablish a self-sustaining population in Colorado on their own. It is up to the voters to vote yes on Proposition 114 this November to restore the missing howl to Colorado.”
Thousands of wolves once roamed throughout Colorado before the state’s last wild wolf was shot and killed in 1945. Since then, very few wolves have survived the journey to Colorado since wolves were reintroduced to the northern Rockies 25 years ago and none have led to an ongoing, self-sustaining population in Colorado.
One challenge is that wolf management in Wyoming--where wolves can be legally killed without limit throughout 85% of the state--largely prevents wolves from reaching Colorado from the northern Rockies. Restoration to Colorado will take reintroduction of a small number of wolves at the same time to pair and reproduce to form multiple packs, similar to the successful reintroduction to Yellowstone and central Idaho 25 years ago.