Officials believe recently deceased wolves in Wyoming may be the same pups born just last year and the first to be born in the wild in over 80 years. Three females were found dead about 10 miles into Wyoming. The Coloradoan later reported that officials believed them to be members of Colorado’s only known pack.
In Colorado, the North Park pack roams across Jackson County. The county lies to the North of the state, close to the Wyoming border.
According to reports, they would regularly pass through the border into Wyoming. There, it’s legal to hunt the species anytime without a permit. However, back in Colorado, they’re protected, and hunting them is illegal and carries a potential fine of $100,000.
The Coloradoan also reported that the three deceased match the age and color of the pups born into the North Park pack last year. Sadly, they were the first wild pups born in Colorado since the 1940s.
“Wolves used to be plentiful throughout the Western U.S., all the way from Mexico to Alaska. They were mostly wiped out at the behest of the livestock industry throughout their range and are only now being restored to places where they used to roam free. The biggest threat to wolves is humans, through both illegal poaching and legal trophy hunting,” Chris Smith, Southwest Wildlife Advocate at conservation organization WildEarth Guardians said.
Wildlife experts call for more protections for wolves in Colorado
He added: “In order to restore wolves to Colorado—which is required by law and the righting of a historical wrong—wolves need to be protected, especially when the population is so small. Three wolves killed represents a major hit to Colorado’s nascent wolf population. Wolves are social creatures and a lack of protection disrupts pack dynamics and the viability of a tiny population.”
The lengthy process of reintroducing the animals to Colorado has not always been popular. However, the state voted to reintroduce the species in November 2020.
Farmers have argued that the animals could go after their livestock. However, experts said the species reintroduction is crucial for Colorado’s ecosystem and will restore predator-prey equilibrium in the area.
“Colorado’s effort to restore wolves represents the opportunity to get wolf restoration right and avoid the catastrophic war on wolves in the Northern Rockies. But misinformation and fear-based rhetoric will lead to dead wolves, further entrenchment, and possibly more livestock losses,” Smith said.
Biologists from Colorado Parks and Wildlife said that two other members of the North Park pack were sighted recently. However, it’s unclear how many remain.