Gray wolves, once eradicated in Colorado, spotted in Grand, Jackson counties
GRAND COUNTY — Two recently reported appearances of gray wolves in Colorado have led state parks and wildlife officials to investigate whether the predator is returning to its historic homeland.
Photos of a gray wolf spotted in Jackson County were shared Tuesday by Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Parks and Wildlife on their social media sites with a notice that the agency is investigating two sightings, including another one in Grand County.
Parks and Wildlife biologists are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the investigation as gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2016, the federal government created a wolf-conservation area in Northern Colorado that restricts the methods federal wildlife managers can use to mitigate wildlife conflicts. The conservation area includes all of Grand, Jackson, Gilpin and Boulder counties and portions of Routt, Moffat, Eagle, Summit, Clear Creek, Jefferson, Adams and Larimer counties.
Wolves used to be native to Colorado until they were eradicated by around 1940, according to Parks and Wildlife. For roughly six decades after, wolves were essentially nonexistent in the state.
That changed in 2004 with a few gray wolf encounters, including one that was hit by a vehicle and another found poisoned. In 2015, a hunter mistook a wolf for a coyote and shot and killed the animal north of Kremmling.
Apart from these confirmed cases, which all involved verifiable wolf carcasses, there have been a number of reported sightings across the state over the years. However, previous efforts to reintroduce wolves to Colorado have been met with resistance from ranchers and farmers.
Grand County’s proximity to the Wyoming border, a state where wolves have already been reintroduced, suggests that more wolf encounters are likely to happen locally in the future.
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