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Pack of wolves spotted in NW Colorado; elk carcass cleaned to bones and possible prints found nearby

Pack was spotted in October, carcass found last week
House passes bill to drop legal protections for gray wolves
Posted at 11:55 AM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 20:25:25-05

DENVER – Wolves have been spotted for the second time in a year in northern Colorado, suggesting that a pack of gray wolves might now live in the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Wednesday just days after a ballot question about reintroducing gray wolves to Colorado was approved for the November ballot.

CPW received an eyewitness report of six wolves traveling together in far northwestern Colorado in October. And last week, an elk carcass was found nearly cleaned of all its meat near Irish Canyon in northwestern Colorado's Moffat County – just a few miles from the eyewitness sighting, CPW said.

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The elk carcass that wolves are suspected to have scavenged in northwestern Colorado in recent weeks.

The eyewitness and fellow hunters said they saw the wolves near Colorado’s borders with Wyoming and Utah and one captured two of the wolves on video.

"The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together," CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke said. "In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report."

CPW said officers went out to investigate the elk carcass after it was reported last week and found several large tracks made by canids – the family to which wolves, dogs and other similar animals belong – in the snow nearby, which wildlife managers said were consistent with wolf tracks.

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Canid prints seen in the area of a scavenged elk carcass that wildlife officials believe could belong to wolves in northwestern Colorado.

CPW said the condition of the elk carcass “is consistent with known wolf predation” and said in a news release that there was no doubt wolves are in Colorado.

"It is inevitable, based on known wolf behavior, that they would travel here from states where their populations are well-established," Romatzke said. "We have no doubt that they are here, and the most recent sighting of what appears to be wolves traveling together in what can be best described as a pack is further evidence of the presence of wolves in Colorado."

CPW says it will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal partners to manage the wolves as they move into the area and that it is still operating under its current management direction.

Another wolf was spotted in February 2019 in Jackson County and was confirmed to be from Wyoming’s Snake River pack from collar tracking data.

"The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years," Romatzke said. "In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.”

Gray wolves once lived across Colorado, but the last ones were killed around 1940. Earlier this week, a ballot question was approved for November in which Colorado voters will decide whether to reintroduce gray wolves back into Colorado – on public land west of the Continental Divide – under a CPW plan that would be put together by 2024.

CPW asks anyone who spots or hears any wolves in Colorado to report them on their Wolf Sighting Forum.