Colorado’s Famous ‘Mother Wolf’ Missing, Feared Dead

by Craig Garrett

Experts believe the mother of Colorado’s first wolf pups in 80 years is no longer in North Park, leaving many to wonder what happened to her. The mother wolf has not been seen since February, according to a story from the Coloradoan. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, no confirmed sightings of her have been recorded since mid-February. This is despite an increase in video and photographs of the pack (six yearlings and the breeding male). There has been no denning activity and no pups seen this year.

Wolf expert Diane Boyd was asked about possible scenarios of what might have happened to the missing mother. She also weighed in on what might happen to the pack now that it appears the matriarch is gone. The female is 6 years old. According to Boyd, wild wolves only have an average lifespan of 4.5 years. Recently, Boyd authored a report for the National Wildlife Federation titled “Lessons Learned to Inform Colorado Wolf Reintroduction and Management.” For 40 years, she studied wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Because the mother wolf is the glue of the pack and its most essential member, she would probably not just go away. It’s doubtful another woman disposed her since if that occurred before breeding season ended in late February, there would be pups. If she hasn’t been seen since February, she’s most likely dead. However, no one knows for sure at this point.

Likely causes of the death of the Colorado ‘Mother Wolf’

There are two scenarios here: she was killed by a human, or she died from natural causes. The former is more likely. Inside of Yellowstone National Park, the greatest threat to wolves is other wolves. Outside of human-occupied areas, most wolf deaths are caused by humans. Wolves die from many things such as drowning, being kicked by elk, or other predators. Contagious diseases also kill wolves. However, this doesn’t seem to be the issue in Colorado because if it was, other wolves would have gotten sick and died too.

There are many potential dangers for the lone wolf. She could have been hit by a car, shot, trapped, or poisoned. The first mortality in Yellowstone after wolves were reintroduced was actually caused by a UPS driver. However, it’s unlikely that she was killed by a local rancher because they would stand to lose too much and have been cooperative thus far.

Packs are known to dissipate and splinter. They frequently stay together until a new breeding female joins the pack. Because there are so few wolves in Colorado, this isn’t as likely. If there is a breeding female in the area or one comes down from Wyoming for mating and pup rearing, wolves will find each other to breed and raise pups. There will be further chances for immigrant females if the female is deceased. The pack might break up, with two or three packs emerging as a result.