Colorado investigates reports of North Park wolves being killed in Wyoming

Updates: Oct. 30: A black and gray wolf were sighted in Jackson County on Friday, according to social media reports that were verified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is investigating reports of three black wolves killed in Wyoming to determine if they were part of Colorado’s only known pack.

The agency said it has reached out to Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials to determine if the wolves were members of the North Park pack that established in Jackson County and whose territory extends across the Wyoming border.

It is legal to kill wolves in Wyoming but not in Colorado.

The Coloradoan received reports over the weekend of three black wolves being shot “just over the border in Wyoming” and reached out to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The state wildlife agency told the Coloradoan on Monday it had received similar information. Late Tuesday afternoon, in responding to further questions by the Coloradoan and Steamboat Radio, the agency said “it received a phone call from a reporting party in Wyoming on Oct. 14 and has followed up with the individual and Wyoming Game and Fish.”

It added the “exact location where the wolves were shot is unknown to CPW, but is believed to be within 10 miles of the border with Wyoming.”

The wildlife agency responded late Wednesday afternoon to questions regarding whether the reporting party identified the color of the wolves, number of wolves shot and if any were outfitted with collars by directing questions to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Wyoming Game and Fish has directed questions of the reported incident to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in Wednesday’s response it will “continue to monitor the North Park pack to see what their status is if and when they are next seen in the area. We will be doing our usual on-the-ground surveys and talking with anyone who might see the wolves and be on the lookout for any wolf sighting reports submitted to CPW by members of the public.”

Reports to the Coloradoan indicated that in addition to three black wolves being shot, two black wolves and a gray one were with the three that were killed. The latter three escaped, according to the reports.

The coloring closely matches members of the North Park pack, whose territory is known to cover much of Jackson County as well as southern Wyoming north of Jackson County.

The parents of that pack, a black female and gray male, naturally migrated into Colorado and produced six black pups in April 2021. It was the first time wolf pups were known to be born in the state in nearly 80 years.

One of the first gray wolf pups born in Colorado is shown after being captured via helicopter and fitted with a tracking collar Wednesday, Feb.  9, 2022 in Jackson County.

One of the first gray wolf pups born in Colorado is shown after being captured via helicopter and fitted with a tracking collar Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022 in Jackson County.

Lack of working collars complications investigation

Officials could potentially use DNA samples to determine if the wolves reportedly killed were from the North Park pack. But Wednesday’s response indicates Colorado Parks and Wildlife will not conduct such tests.

Blood samples are routinely drawn from wildlife captured and fitted with radio collars. The adult mother, adult father and one of the yearlings of the North Park pack have been fitted with radio collars. None of those collars have worked in months, leaving Colorado Parks and Wildlife unable to track the wolves.

But if one of the wolves reportedly killed was wearing a nonworking collar that matched the number of a North Park pack member, it could be traced to the Colorado pack.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife used a helicopter to capture and fit the adult male of the pack with a new radio collar in February 2021. That mission started in northern Jackson County in Colorado but ended with the capturing taking place just across the border in Wyoming.

That collar has not worked since May 13, according to the state wildlife agency.

In February 2022, the agency intended to capture and fit the mother of the pack with a new collar. They found the pack but not the mother so instead captured and fitted a yearling female from the pack with a collar that failed shortly thereafter.

A radio collar had been placed on the mother wolf while she was in Wyoming. She was discovered in Colorado in 2019.

There have been no confirmed sightings of the more than 6-year-old pack mother since February and there is no evidence she gave birth to a second litter in the spring. The state wildlife agency said they do not know if she is alive or still in the area.

The state wildlife agency previously told the Coloradoan it intends to capture and collar members of the pack this winter.

More: Colorado wolvesWolves are suspected of killing Meeker cattle, but did disease play a part?

Colorado and Wyoming share boundaries but not wolf laws

Wolves are a federally endangered species in Colorado and it is illegal to kill wolves in the state except to protect human life. The penalty for illegally killing a wolf in Colorado is a fine up to $100,000, up to one year in jail and possible loss of hunting privileges for life.

Nonlethal hazing measures to deter wolves were approved by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission earlier this year after wolf depredations began.

Wolves in Wyoming are not listed as endangered and it is legal to kill the predator in the area of ​​southern Wyoming where the wolves were reportedly shot. That area, as well as all but the northwest corner of Wyoming, are designated as a “predatory animal management area.”

Those who kill wolves in the predatory area can do so without a permit anytime of the year. It is required the killings be reported to Wyoming Game and Fish within 10 days. Wyoming law does not require information regarding the killings to be made public.

Three members of Colorado’s first pack of wolves in 80 years were killed in similar fashion. Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed a pack of six wolves in Moffat County in the far northwest corner of the state, bordering Wyoming, in January 2020.

Three wolves were confirmed killed in Wyoming in September 2020. That pack dispersed after the deaths.

More: Colorado wolves Potential release area includes ski resorts

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Members of Colorado’s North Park wolfpack may have been killed in Wyoming

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