First wild wolf pups in over 70 years may now be in Colorado
The future of the Gray Wolf is looking up
Colorado Parks and Wildlife are buzzing about the discovery that a wolf, mistakenly identified as male, could in fact be the mommy-wolf of a mating pair.
Wolf pups are typically born in April/May and experts are hoping there's a den full of pups somewhere in Colorado's Jackson County area.
"They were thought to be confirmed bachelors wandering south from Wyoming," explains Governor Jared Polis in his Facebook post. "Now Colorado Parks and Wildlife has determined that one of the wolves is a female, and that they are likely a breeding pair with their den in Colorado!"
The pair were simply given numbers to identify them when they were discovered earlier this year in Northern Colorado, but Polis gave them an official welcome as residents of Colorado, naming them John and Jane Wolf.
"Of course one breeding pair can’t sustain a healthy population," says Polis. "But Colorado voters recently approved the reintroduction of wolves to our ecosystem which will help John and Jane’s pups have genetically diverse potential mates to choose from when they grow up."
Rebecca Ferrell, a communications official with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said field biologists want to confirm a litter and have set up trail cameras. They will continue to observe location data and watching to see if the wolf pair come back to the site where they suspect the den is. Wolves raise and wean pups from the den, but wander further to hunt for food.
Ferrell says, the biologists wouldn't try to get too close or make any direct observations as that might frighten the animals. One study found pups can be put at risk or even abandoned if they sense a lot of human activity.
Why would we want wolves anyway?
Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park back in 1995, after hunting had completely eradicated them in the mid-1940's. A predator-prey balance is important for our ecosytems. Returning the wolves to Colorado helps restore that balance.
"By changing elk behavior, wolves can reduce overgrazing on river banks, which in turn can make areas more suitable for songbirds and beavers. Beavers, in turn, improve habitat for native fish and amphibians. By reducing coyote populations, wolves have the potential to increase the numbers of foxes and ground squirrels, which increase available food for birds of prey," says Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains program director for Defenders of Wildlife.
Hopefully we will have pictures of cute wolf pups to share soon!