Three of Colorado’s few gray wolves might have been killed just across the border in Wyoming, state wildlife officials confirmed.
Travis Duncan, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, confirmed that three “sub-adult” female wolves had been “legally harvested” in Wyoming, where hunting the predators is legal. Parks and Wildlife first heard of the killings, first reported by the Fort Collins Coloradoan, on Oct. 14, he said.
At the moment, Duncan couldn’t say for sure whether the wolves came from the pack living in north-central Colorado’s North Park. He added that members of the pack commonly travelled between Colorado and Wyoming.
The agency will continue to watch the North Park pack for more information, Duncan said.
The catch, however, is that state officials lost track of those wolves over the summer when electronic collars fitted to three of them quit working, all within a short time frame. The failure of those tracking collars first led to speculation that members of the North Park pack – which had been killing dogs and livestock in the area – might have been killed.
Duncan did not immediately say when the wolves were reported to have been killed and Breanna Ball, a spokeswoman for Wyoming’s Fish and Game Department, declined to comment.
The North Park pack has been the subject of controversy for nearly a year. Its two adults migrated there naturally, ahead of the state’s widespread reintroduction effort, and together they had a litter of six pups. Before long the pack began killing animals in the area, to the chagrin of the people living there. Since then ranchers have repeatedly called to be allowed to kill wolves targeting their livestock. Currently, people are only allowed to kill or injure wolves if they’re in immediate danger.
Michael Robinson, a wolf expert with the Center for Biological Diversity, said he was disappointed to hear of the killings.
While few preliminary details are available, Robinson questioned whether the North Park wolves might have been baited to cross the border out of Colorado, where they enjoy state and federal protections. He urged Parks and Wildlife officials to take the investigation seriously.
Colorado and federal officials launched a similar investigation in 2020 after members of a different wolf pack living in northwest Colorado were reported to have been shot and killed in Wyoming. Investigators never definitively settled the matter.
Parks and Wildlife officials are also currently investigating whether wolves, or something else, killed 18 calves near Meeker this fall. Duncan said Wednesday the killings were still under investigation and he previously indicated that if wolves are confirmed to be the killers, it likely indicates that yet another pack is living in Colorado.
All of the wolves currently living in Colorado migrated here naturally. Parks and Wildlife is developing a plan to reintroduce more of the predators to the Western Slope by the end of next year after the narrow and controversial passage of Proposition 114 in 2020. Colorado’s urban counties widely supported the measure while Western Slope counties, which will be the future home of the wolves, did not. That election and the ongoing reintroduction effort has served as a consistent friction point between rural and urban Coloradans.