STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (KMGH) – Colorado is now home to at least three wolf pups since the grey wolf was driven to near-extinction back in the 1940s, state wildlife officials said Wednesday morning.
Between June 4 through June 8, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) staff conducted three separate observations of the den site occupied by collared wolves M2101 (“John”) and F1084 (“Jane”). During observations, staff reported visual confirmation of the three pups, though officials said they could not confirm if there were more. A typical wolf litter consists of four to six pups, according to CPW.
“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s. We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado. With voter passage last year of the initiative to require re-introduction of the wolf by the end of 2023, these pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families,” Governor Jared Polis said in a prepared statement.
CPW officials explained all three observations were made at dawn or dusk in low light conditions at a significant distance, adding they have the experience and necessary equipment to make affirmative observations.
“We are continuing to actively monitor this den site while exercising extreme caution so as not to inadvertently jeopardize the potential survival of these pups,” said Libbie Miller, CPW wildlife biologist. “Our hope is that we will eventually have photos to document this momentous occasion in Colorado's incredible and diverse wildlife history, but not bothering them remains a paramount concern.”
As the pups grow larger and spend more time outside of the den, biologists and area staff will have additional opportunities to observe the animals, CPW said. The department is currently working with landowners in the area to implement practices to minimize the potential for conflict, officials said in the news release.
“It’s incredible that these two adult animals have traveled the distance and overcome the challenges they have to get here, and to now have pups in Colorado,” said Kris Middledorf, area wildlife manager for CPW. “It’s our priority to ensure that they have the chance to thrive, so even as we have exciting news, we want to remind everyone that these animals remain endangered in Colorado.
Due to their endangered status in our state, those caught killing a gray wolf in Colorado face a fine of $100,000, jail time, and a loss of hunting privileges, CPW said. Harassment of wildlife is also illegal in the state.
Late last month, CPW officials said they had identified one of the collared wolves living in Colorado since 2019 as a female, a significant development since “Jane” and her companion had been showing movement patterns consistent with “potential denning behavior.”
Last year, Colorado voters passed Proposition 114 to have CPW reintroduce gray wolves into the state by the end of 2023.
CPW has identified at least six wolves in Colorado over the past couple of years. Despite the federal delisting, gray wolves remain an endangered species in Colorado and cannot be killed for any reason other than personal self-defense.
CPW urges the public to contact them immediately and fill out a report if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of wolf activity in Colorado.
This story originally reported by Oscar Contreras on TheDenverChannel.com.