A gray wolf. John & Karen Hollingsworth / USFWS
The state of Colorado just welcomed some very special babies.
“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s,” Governor Jared Polis said in the announcement. “We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado.”
The new wolves were spotted by both a CPW biologist and a CPW district wildlife manager alongside parents M2101, or “John,” and F1084 , or “Jane.” The new pups were observed three times near their den site by wildlife officials between June 4 and June 8. While the officials only ever saw three pups at a time, it is possible that there could be more. A typical wolf litter consists of four to six pups.
While wildlife officials are eager to learn more, they are also keeping their distance to protect the pups.
“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,” CPW wildlife biologist Libbie Miller said in the press release. “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.”
We are exercising extreme caution as we continue to actively monitor the site so as not to inadvertently jeopardize the potential survival of these pups. pic.twitter.com/vwnDMPKWgL
— Colorado Parks and Wildlife (@COParksWildlife) June 9, 2021
The sightings come at a turning point for gray wolves in the state of Colorado. Beginning in the 1920s, every wolf in the state was trapped and poisoned by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, as the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) explained. The last wolf to be born in Colorado was killed by the federal government in 1945.
But now, the species is making a comeback. Wolves have been sighted there since 2019, and the presence of a pack was confirmed in northwestern Colorado last year, The AP reported. Officials believe they migrated from the Wyoming part of Yellowstone National Park.
At the same time, Colorado voters approved an initiative last November to reintroduce wolves to the western part of the state by 2023. This is good news for the new babies.
“[T]hese pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families,” Polis said in the announcement.
It is also positive for the overall health of wolves and other wildlife in Colorado.
“One wolf family is not enough,” the CBD’s Michael Robinson said in a press release. “For genetic sustainability of a population, and to ensure that the many animals and plants that rely indirectly on wolves benefit from their presence, the state needs a community of new wolves. We’ll get that through reintroduction.”
The news comes at a vulnerable time for wolves nationally, as the Trump administration stripped them of federal endangered species protections in one of its last acts. However, they remain protected in Colorado, and killing one incurs a fine of $100,000, jail time and a loss of hunting privileges, state officials said.
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