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A Historic Milestone: The Return of Gray Wolves to Colorado

2302-OR: Colorado Parks and Wildlife released five gray wolves onto public land in Grand County, Colorado on Monday, December 18, 2023. Pictured is wolf 2302-OR.

In a groundbreaking conservation effort, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has reintroduced five gray wolves into the wilds of Grand County, marking a significant step in restoring the species to the state. This momentous action not only honors the mandate of Colorado voters but also reignites the presence of a keystone species absent since the 1940s.

Celebrating a Historic Reintroduction:

On December 18, 2023, CPW released five wolves from Oregon onto public land in Colorado. These wolves, carefully selected based on age, health, and other criteria, were prepared for their new life in Colorado with thorough evaluations, vaccinations, and fitting with GPS collars for future tracking. The wolves include:

  • 2302-OR, a juvenile female from the Five Points Pack
  • 2303-OR, a juvenile male from the Five Points Pack
  • 2304-OR, a juvenile female from the Noregaard Pack
  • 2305-OR, a juvenile male from the Noregaard Pack
  • 2307-OR, an adult male from the Wenaha Pack

Future Plans for Wolf Recovery:

CPW aims to introduce 10 – 15 wolves by mid-March 2024, with a long-term goal of releasing 30 to 50 wolves over 3 – 5 years. These wolves will be sourced from various northern Rockies states, ensuring genetic diversity and robustness in the new population.

The Significance of 10(j) and Remaining Vigilant:

While we celebrate this achievement, we must also acknowledge the 10(j) rule under the Endangered Species Act. This designation classifies the Colorado wolf population as Experimental and Nonessential, offering some management flexibility. While this aids in reintroduction efforts, it also means we must remain vigilant in ensuring these wolves receive adequate protection and management to thrive in their new habitat. Want to know more? We talked at length about 10(j) here.

A Step Forward in Colorado’s Conservation Legacy:

This reintroduction is a continuation of CPW’s rich history in species recovery, including efforts for the black-footed ferret, the lynx, and the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The return of wolves is expected to benefit Colorado’s ecosystems by restoring natural balance and biodiversity.

Governor Jared Polis praised this initiative, emphasizing its alignment with public desire and ecological necessity. CPW Director Jeff Davis and Assistant Director Reid DeWalt expressed gratitude for the collaboration that made this possible, especially acknowledging the support from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A Collective Effort for a Brighter Future:

This reintroduction marks a pivotal moment in wolf conservation, symbolizing a collective effort toward ecological restoration and balanced coexistence. We hope that the path forward, now that wolves are on the ground, remains committed to wolf conservation and science-based management practices, something that other states in the Rockies have struggled with.

For more details on this historic event and to follow the journey of these remarkable wolves and wolves across North America, we’ll continue to update our newsletter for all looking for information and other ways to get involved. Your continued support and involvement are crucial in ensuring the success of wolf recovery efforts.