Gray Wolf Pups Seen in Colorado for the First Time in 80 Years

Wildlife officials spotted at least three pups around a den site located near the Wyoming border

gray wolf pups
The new gray wolf pups in Colorado have yet to be photographed, so for now you'll have to make do with this bright-eyed pair. USFW / Hilary Cooley via Flickr under CC BY 2.0

Last week, wildlife officials in Colorado announced that their state is now home to at least three gray wolf pups, the first litter to be born in the state in some 80 years, reports Sam Brasch for Colorado Public Radio.

The appearance of this new litter follows a recently approved ballot measure that will see gray wolves reintroduced on Colorado’s public lands in the western part of the state by the end of 2023, the Associated Press reports.

“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s. We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado. With voter passage last year of the initiative to require re-introduction of the wolf by the end of 2023, these pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families,” says Colorado Governor Jared Polis in a statement.

Colorado has been almost entirely without gray wolves since around 1940, when decades of federally backed hunting and trapping had nearly wiped the canine predators out. Their nascent reappearance in the state was made possible by the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and central Idaho in the 1990s, reports Jennifer Jett for the New York Times.

In 2019, these reintroductions eventually led to the first sighting in decades of multiple wolves travelling together in Colorado. Prior to the appearance of the pups, Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff thought they were tracking two male wolves, known as M2101 and F1084, according to the Times. Instead, the pair produced this landmark litter.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) staff made three separate observations of multiple pups with the pair between June 4 and 8. Wolf litters typically consist of four to six pups, so there may be more near a den site located in Jackson County, which borders Wyoming, per the Times.

“We are continuing to actively monitor this den site while exercising extreme caution so as not to inadvertently jeopardize the potential survival of these pups,” Libbie Miller, CPW wildlife biologist, says in the statement. “Our hope is that we will eventually have photos to document this momentous occasion in Colorado's incredible and diverse wildlife history, but not bothering them remains a paramount concern.”

Though conservationists and fans of baby animals may be cheering for Colorado’s new furry family, wolves remain a contentious issue in the American West. The ballot measure requiring Colorado to reintroduce gray wolves passed only narrowly and drew opposition from the state’s ranching, farming and hunting communities, according to Colorado Public Radio.

“It’s incredible that these two adult animals have traveled the distance and overcome the challenges they have to get here, and to now have pups in Colorado,” says Kris Middledorf, a wildlife manager for CPW, in the statement. “It’s our priority to ensure that they have the chance to thrive, so even as we have exciting news, we want to remind everyone that these animals remain endangered in Colorado.”