Wolf Reintroduction — How Would It Work In Colorado?

Jul 10, 2019

Advocates in Colorado are trying to put an initiative on the 2020 ballot that would bring gray wolves back to the state. If it passes, how would it actually work?

Mike Phillips is currently a Montana state senator, but he knows about wolves. He had a decades long career as a wolf biologist and he led the reintroduction of gray wolves into Yellowstone Park in the mid 90s.

He explained how reintroduction could work in Colorado.  “You'd come to Montana and you’d get fifteen wolves," he said. "You'd put them in a shipping crate, drive them down to Colorado. Just take them to the end of the road in a nice big piece of wild country, take the crate out of the truck, set the crate on the road, open the door, and the wolf runs out.”

Phillips says the releases would be most effective in the mountains of Southern Colorado. Because of wolves’ homing instinct to return north. He says it would take about three years of these releases – or up to 45 relocated wolves – to establish a viable population.

Phillips says Montana is the best place to take the animals from because it has a big enough population that it gives out wolf hunting permits. So these are animals that would probably die otherwise, Phillips said.

Opponents to the measure say reintroducing wolves would harm livestock ranchers and hunters in Colorado.

In related news, biologists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working to confirm two recent reports of what are believed to be gray wolves in northern Colorado. The agency received a photo that may show a radio-collared wolf near Walden in Jackson County. The second possible sighting was in Grand County.

Gray wolves were native to Colorado but were hunted to near extinction by the 1940s. CPW spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell says the Jackson County animal may have wandered from nearby Wyoming, one of several states where the wolf has been reintroduced.

The last confirmed Colorado wolf sightings were near Walden in 2015.

In all, there are about 6,000 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Western Great Lakes.

Updated July 11, 2019, 11:15 a.m. — Colorado Parks and Wildlife has confirmed on of the recent animal sightings was, in fact, a gray wolf from Wyoming. Officials said yesterday the wolf reported near Walden in Jackson County was a male from the Snake River wolf pack.