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Gray wolf from snake river Wyoming pack, photo taken in Colorado.

Gray Wolf 

Grey wolf. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The gray wolf ranges across Eurasia and in North America, from the Arctic to Mexico and from coast to coast. Once distributed statewide, the gray wolf is now gone from Colorado. The last ones were killed by about 1940. Sometimes called "timber wolves" (to distinguish it from the coyote, or "prairie wolf"), wolves occupy a wide range of habitats. Wolves once fed on Colorado's vast herds of bison, elk and deer, supplemented by rabbits, rodents and carrion.

When market hunters overhunted the large mammals that constituted wolves' staple diet, wolves naturally turned to a new food resource in the developing frontier: livestock. Because of their depredations of domestic animals, wolves in Colorado were systematically eradicated by shooting, trapping and poisoning. 

With reintroduced populations becoming sustainable across the United States, including Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, many wildlife professionals believe it is only a matter of time before the wolf naturally migrates back to Colorado. However, the gray wolf is currently listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. They are under the management authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Appearance: Wolves are large dogs, up to five feet long (14 inches of which is a bushy tail). Their coloring is pale gray, washed with buff and overlain on the back and legs with black.

Habitat and Young: Wolves den in burrows in banks where the female bears six to 10 pups in March after a nine-week gestation period. The male provides food for the nursing mother. A pair may have a hunting territory of 10 square miles.

Proposals have been made to restore wolves to wilderness ecosystems of Colorado, where they could provide a natural check on populations of elk, for example. The suggestions have met with considerable opposition from some ranchers .

What is an Extirpated Species? An extirpated species is an animal that no longer exists in the wild in its historical habitat, but still exists elsewhere. An example of a species extirpated in Colorado is the gray wolf. Although gray wolves no longer exist in the wilds of Colorado, they can be found in captivity in zoos and wildlife parks.

Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

The Mexican wolf is a distinct subspecies of wolf. It is listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Therefore, it is under the management authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The historic range of the Mexican wolf includes New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico. Wolves are capable of traveling long distances, and although solitary Mexican wolves may occasionally have explored the state, there is no evidence that populations of the subspecies ever resided in Colorado.

The USFWS has recently changed the boundaries for the experimental population area extending it from Highway 40 (and east-west highway between Albuquerque and Flagstaff) south to the Mexican border.

Press releases and FAQs on the USFWS's recent actions regarding Mexican wolves are available at the provided links.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's position on Initiative 107

The Division of Parks and Wildlife has not adopted a formal resolution or position on this ballot initiative. The Division and the Commission are committed to ensuring a fair election takes place. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is subject to the provisions of Colorado's Fair Campaign Practices Act (CRS § 1-45-117). 

Employees of Colorado Parks and Wildlife can’t express a personal opinion on a ballot issue or measure during work time. Additionally, employees can’t work on a ballot initiative during work time and are prohibited from purporting to convey any opinion on any ballots on behalf of the State, the Department of Natural Resources or CPW.  

Probable Wolf Sighting

On February 16, 2007 district wildlife managers with the CPW captured a brief video of a suspected wolf about 10 miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming border north of Walden. Biologists and wolf specialists say the animal seen on tape looks and behaves like a wolf.

Think you’ve seen a wolf in Colorado?

Help biologists by filling out the Wolf Sighting Form.