In December of last year, 10 gray wolves were reintroduced in Colorado, launching an effort to maintain a viable, self-sustaining population in the state. Now, interested parties can take a look at how the animals are spreading.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website is now offering a map showing which watersheds in the state have seen wolf activity. The data comes from GPS collars on the 10 newcomers, who came from Oregon, along with two collared wolves in North Park. The agency chose to use watersheds in the map because the animals are more apt to determine where to go through geographical features, not county lines.
The maps will include information from the prior month and be updated the fourth Wednesday of each month. To protect the safety of the wolves, exact GPS locations will not be shared, and CPW may buffer maps available to the public during sensitive times of the year, like mating season.
Officials say as more wolves migrate into the state and pups are born, the share of collared wolves will be lower, so the map won’t be as accurate in the years to come.
The current crop of reintroduced wolves builds on a small population that had been forming over recent years. The gray wolf had been widespread throughout Colorado before they were extirpated by 1940, due to livestock producers trapping, hunting, and poisoning them.
CPW says in 2019, a lone wolf took up residence in the state. The following year, a pack was discovered in northwestern Colorado. By 2021, another lone wolf had joined the first, ultimately producing pups. In 2020, voters also approved the reintroduction of gray wolves through Proposition 114.
In December, there was an initial release of an adult male, two juvenile females, and two juvenile males in Grand County. A few days later, there were four more juvenile females and an adult male released in Summit County.
While gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Colorado population is deemed experimental, allowing officials some flexibility with their conflict mitigation plan. The goal is to release 30 to 50 wolves over the next three to five years. The animals will come from different packs in neighboring northern Rockies states, with trapping and darting occurring in the winter. Officials hope to balance a sustainable population with the safety concerns of people and livestock.
At the time of the first release, CPW director Jeff Davis said, “We’ll continue releasing animals based on our plan to have wolves not just survive but thrive in Colorado as they did a century ago.”
You can find the wolf watershed activity map here.