Colorado Wolves Kill First Documented Livestock in Over 70 Years

by Jon D. B.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirms Tuesday that the state has its first documented domestic livestock fatality by wolves in 7 decades.

The struggle between man and wolf is as ancient as anything humanity knows. While we originally competed over the same prey, the advent of agriculture gave man a new struggle: protecting livestock from wolves.

Several species of large canines once carved large numbers out of domestic herds in early American settlements. Both our gray – and specifically red wolves – were hunted to the brink of extinction as a result. Colorado completely eradicated wolves. And this centuries-old conflict embedded a war-like mentality into our country; one that is prevalent to this day.

Yet as Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) data shows, this “man vs wolf” was extinct in the state, too. But grays are finally making a slow resurgence in Colorado. And they’re doing so right as many Midwestern politicians are calling for the culling of gray wolves closer to their early 20th century numbers.

At this critical junction, CPW now has its first domestic livestock fatality in over 70 years.

In this context, “latest” becomes a stretch. That’s 70+ years without CPW, a standard-setting conservation agency, being able to officially document a livestock kill by wolves because they were eradicated from the state.

Other wildlife do and will kill livestock. But as the data shows in states where gray wolves remain prevalent, the culprit is far more likely to be a mountain lion. Bears are responsible for less than 1% of domestic livestock fatalities in most states similarly to grays.

CPW Necropsy Confirms First Colorado Livestock Death by Wolves in Decades

As for the Colorado calf, the kill came off a ranch in North Park on Sunday, Associated Press confirms. A Colorado Cattlemen’s Association news release pinpoints it as the first by wolves in over 70 years.

“The results of this investigation indicated wolf tracks in the immediate vicinity of the carcass and wounds on the calf consistent with wolf depredation,” says CPW Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf following a necropsy of the calf.

In this instance, CPW will reimburse the ranch following the same protocol for kills by mountain lions. Deaths by wolves are such a relic that Colorado that the agency has yet to formalize a process to reimburse ranchers for these losses.

Regardless, this livestock death will now be at the forefront of Colorado conservation for 2022. Colorado voters would only narrowly pass a proposition to develop the reintroduction of gray wolves into the state in 2021. If it follows through, a number of grays will see introduction west of the Continental Divide. The goal is to have an increasing population by 2023’s end.

And if they are, they will join the first gray pups born naturally in Colorado in years.