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Yellowstone Wolf Confirmed in Colorado

March 2, 2009.

From the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

A Yellowstone wolf dispersing from her pack in southwestern Montana is now wandering the Colorado high country after a journey of perhaps 1,000 miles, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials announced.

The global positioning satellite collar attached to the 18-month-old female indicated her last known position was in Eagle County. She separated from her pack just north of the Yellowstone National Park boundary in September and has now traveled across five states, federal biologists said.

“Young wolves often cover remarkable distances looking for a mate and a new territory,” said DOW director Tom Remington.  “If this wolf doesn’t find a pack, she’ll likely keep moving. We’ve seen at least one Yellowstone wolf in Colorado before, but we have no reason to believe that wolves have established a pack in the state yet.”

The gray wolf is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and may not be killed or harassed without federal approval. Colorado’s wolf policy allows for wolves to move freely throughout the state as long as they don’t come in conflict with people or livestock.

The wolf roaming Colorado, known as 314F, was a member of the Mill Creek Pack when she was caught and collared by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks as part of a research effort with the University of Montana to improve wolf monitoring techniques. The data provided by her collar has allowed researchers to track her epic journey across an enormous chunk of the Rocky Mountain region.

According to satellite data, the wolf passed south through Yellowstone National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming southeast of Pinedale. She then traversed widely through southwestern Wyoming and wandered through southeast Idaho and northeastern Utah before crossing into Colorado within the past two weeks. The wolf is now 450 miles from its origin, but has traveled at least 1,000 miles overall.

The last confirmed wolf in Colorado also came from Yellowstone. The young female was killed by a vehicle on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs in June, 2004. In 2007, video footage of a black, wolf-like canid was taken near Walden, CO, in the North Park area. While this footage was highly suggestive, the animal was not wearing a radio collar and its identity could not be verified. The DOW has received other reports of wolf sightings throughout the state in recent years. None have been confirmed.

Wolves generally disperse within 60 miles of their pack, although biologists have documented approximately 10 wolves since 1992 that traveled in excess of 190 miles in search of a mate. The actual number of long-distance dispersers may be higher; less than 30 percent of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population has been radio-collared. None of the long-distance dispersing wolves from the northern Rocky Mountain population have successfully formed packs or bred. Lone wolves typically have low survival rates outside of occupied wolf range.  

Native populations of gray wolves were extirpated from Colorado by the late 1930's. Prior to 2004, the last known record of an individual wolf killed in Colorado was in 1943.

However, wolf biologists expect that dispersers from the Yellowstone area, Idaho and Montana will continue to attempt to reestablish populations in suitable portions of their former range. In 2004, the Colorado Division of Wildlife adopted a wolf management plan when and if wolves may try to naturally recolonize the state. The policy establishes that wolves may roam freely in Colorado unless they come into conflict with people or livestock. Such conflicts would be addressed on a case-by-case basis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in consultation with the DOW.

Colorado has no plans to reintroduce the wolf.

As a listed endangered species, wolves may not be harassed, pursued, hunted, shot, captured, trapped or killed, nor may any member of the public engage in such conduct unless a wolf poses a legitimate threat to human safety. The DOW reminds hunters and the general public that they should exercise additional caution to ensure this wolf is not mistaken for a coyote.

“The Division of Wildlife relies on the public to help us track wolf sightings,” said Shane Briggs, a wildlife conservation specialist with the agency. “Potential wolf sightings should be reported to the DOW immediately.” A report form is posted on the Division of Wildlife Website online.

Additional information about this wolf will be reported in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s interagency weekly reports that are posted on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Website at: http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov

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