“Today, history was made in Colorado. For the first time since the 1940s, the howl of wolves will officially return to western Colorado.” –Colorado Governor Jared Polis

The people of Colorado voted in the reintroduction of wolves to the landscape back in 2020 and they have finally been released 3 years later.

5 grey wolves, (3 males, 2 females) were released yesterday in Grand County, west of Rocky Mountain National Park. The animals were captured in Oregon, evaluated by veterinarians and biologists, fitted with GPS collars and transferred to Colorado for their release.

These 5 wolves are just the beginning of the reintroduction efforts. Colorado Parks and Wildlife plan to release an additional 10-15 wolves by March 2024 and another 30-50 in the next 3 to 5 years.

Check out the video and find the Colorado Parks and Wildlife press release below:

PRESS RELEASE:

Today, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) experts released five gray wolves onto public land in Grand County in a historic effort to create a permanent, self-sustaining wolf population and fulfill voter approval to re-establish gray wolves in Colorado.

The gray wolves were captured in Oregon where CPW veterinarians and biologists evaluated them to determine if they were fit for relocation to Colorado. Criteria for release included the age, sex, health and body condition of each animal. 

Each gray wolf was weighed and measured. Staff collected genetic material – tissue and blood samples – before fitting each with a GPS satellite collar for tracking upon release by CPW staff. Then, the wolves were given vaccines and were placed in crates and flown to Colorado for release back into the wild.

Meet Colorado’s new wolves:

2302-OR: Juvenile female, black color, 68 lbs., Five Points Pack
2303-OR: Juvenile male, gray color, 76 lbs. Five Points Pack
2304-OR: Juvenile female, gray color, 76 lbs., Noregaard Pack
2305-OR: Juvenile male, black color, 93 lbs., Noregaard Pack
2307-OR: Adult male, gray color, 108 lbs., Wenaha Pack

Note: All wolves captured, collared and released in Colorado will use the same naming convention: The first two numbers (23) will indicate the year the animal was captured. The second set of numbers informs biologists of the wolf’s gender (males will have odd numbers, females will have even) and the order in which it was collared. *The “OR” suffix indicates the wolves came from Oregon. 

CPW will repeat the process until at least 10 – 15 wolves have been reintroduced in Colorado by mid-March 2024. As outlined in the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan, CPW hopes to release 30 to 50 wolves over the next 3 – 5 years using wolves captured from nearby northern Rockies states from several different packs by trapping and darting them in the winter.

Gray wolves are listed both state and federally as an endangered species in Colorado by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the Colorado wolf population as Experimental under Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. This provides management flexibility that would otherwise be prohibited.

CPW’s reintroduction program builds on work started by the USFWS in 1995 when that federal agency began restoring gray wolves in the Western U.S., starting with an experimental population released in Yellowstone National Park in Montana. Wolf reintroduction efforts eventually spread to Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona.

The Oregon wolves released represent CPW’s determination to fulfill the wishes of Colorado voters who, in 2020, directed the agency to begin reintroducing wolves by Dec. 31, 2023. The new wolves will be managed by CPW using the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan, approved by the CPW Commission in May 2023, after more than two years of extensive statewide stakeholder meetings and outreach via a series of public hearings. 

Ultimately, CPW plans to recover and maintain a viable, self-sustaining wolf population in Colorado while balancing the need to manage interactions between wolves, people and livestock.  

This project marks another milestone in the long CPW tradition of species recovery in Colorado. These include the black-footed ferret, one of North America’s rarest mammals, the 1999 effort to reintroduce the lynx, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, the greenback cutthroat trout, and many more. 

“Today, history was made in Colorado. For the first time since the 1940s, the howl of wolves will officially return to western Colorado. The return of wolves fulfills the will of voters who, in 2020, passed an initiative requiring the reintroduction of wolves starting by Dec. 31, 2023. What followed were three years of comprehensive listening and work by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to draft a plan to restore and manage wolves that included public meetings in every corner of the state and was inclusive of all points of view and weighed the needs of a wide range of communities with a deep interest in the thoughtful outcome of this effort. I am proud of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff for their hard work to make this happen. The shared efforts to reintroduce wolves are just getting started and wolves will rejoin a diverse ecosystem of Colorado wildlife.”Colorado Governor Jared Polis

“Today’s reintroduction of the gray wolf is a tremendous accomplishment for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the citizens of Colorado. This would not have been possible without the tireless work of CPW staff and the Parks and Wildlife Commission, the members of both our advisory boards and the citizens and stakeholders who engaged and weighed in to make our wolf management plan the best for all Coloradans and for wolves that once again grace our Colorado landscapes.”Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Department of Natural Resources

“This is a historic day for Colorado. We want to thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their work to complete and approve the 10(j) designation that lists wolves in Colorado as a nonessential, experimental population. This helps us to follow all of the conflict mitigation plans we accounted for in the final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan. Having the rule in place in early December helped CPW to stay on track to reintroduce wolves in 2023 with the ability to use the appropriate management tools. We’ll continue releasing animals based on our plan to have wolves not just survive but thrive in Colorado as they did a century ago.” – CPW Director Jeff Davis

“Pulling off a successful first wolf release in Colorado touched all corners of our agency. This has been two years of work to approve the plan plus another year of work to secure our first source population and get us to this release day. We are grateful to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for working with our agency on an agreement for up to 10 wolves and for all the CPW staff who contributed to this historic day.” –CPW Assistant Director Aquatic, Terrestrial, and Natural Resources Reid DeWalt 

“It was an honor to participate in this historic effort. We were thrilled to have great conditions for capture and early success in Oregon. Weather conditions and information on pack locations provided by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff combined to help us capture five gray wolves on day one of capture operations in northeast Oregon and release them earlier today on Colorado’s Western Slope.” –CPW Wolf Conservation Program Manager Eric Odell