Colorado Just Collared A Gray Wolf, Signaling A New Era Of Wildlife Management

Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado wildlife staff watch over a gray wolf that was tranquilized and fitted with a GPS collar after it was spotted in north-central Colorado.

It appears a couple of lone wolves have linked up in Northern Colorado. 

On Tuesday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced it had successfully collared a gray wolf first observed in Jackson County. The animal came to the agency’s attention as it monitored M1084, another wolf that migrated from Wyoming’s Snake River pack in 2019. The male already had its own tracking device.

Rebecca Ferrell, an agency spokesperson, said it marked the first time state wildlife authorities have collared a gray wolf. Colorado only recently gained authority over the species after former President Donald Trump removed the animals from the endangered species list in an order that took effect on Jan. 4.

“It’s exciting because it’s the first opportunity for us to start our process of managing and seeing what’s happening on the ground here in Colorado,” Ferrell said. 

Ferrell added it wasn’t easy to collar the animal. Contractors initially netted and tranquilized the wolf from a helicopter, but it managed to get loose and bolt into Wyoming. The animal was subdued and collared across the state line. CPW informed the Wyoming Game and Fish Department before the operation crossed the border.

Colorado wildlife biologists performed a medical examination before attaching a GPS collar. It revealed the animal is a 4-year-old male in good health weighing 110 pounds. 

The tracking device attached to the wolf, now dubbed M2101, will help biologists monitor the animal’s range and movement, according to a press release. The answers could inform how the agency decides to reintroduce wolves under a ballot measure narrowly approved by Colorado voters in November 2020.

Ferrell couldn’t say exactly how many wolves are now living in Colorado. Last year, the agency confirmed a pack of six animals had taken residence in Moffat County in the state’s northwest corner, but those wolves sometimes cross the Utah and Wyoming borders. As CPR News reported last year, three of those wolves also may have been legally killed in Wyoming.

Ferrell said its new management authority “will allow us to get a better handle” on the state’s wolf population. 

As for the newly collared pair, one question is whether the animals will attract mates. At the moment, Ferrell said the two wolves may have joined up as hunting partners. The addition of any female wolves could signal the beginnings of another Colorado pack — and a more permanent wolf presence in the state.