Gray Wolf Management
Colorado is part of the gray wolf’s native range, but wolves were eradicated from the state by the 1940s. Over the past decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) restored gray wolves into Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona. Individual wolves, including two wolves that have since mated and produced pups in Jackson County, have been periodically migrating into Colorado. It is possible that wolves from the south may do so someday as well.
To prepare for any future wolf migrations into Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) created a multi-disciplinary working group that drafted a Wolf Management Plan. The wolf working group's recommendations were adopted in their entirety by the Colorado Wildlife Commission at its May 2005 meeting, and affirmed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission in 2016.
Proposition 114, a ballot initiative to introduce wolves west of the continental divide, was voted on and passed by Coloradans in November 2020.
Wolves in Colorado: Who has Authority?
Until 2021, the gray wolf had been protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Colorado since 1974. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a rule to delist the species nationwide on November 3, 2020
, which returned management control of the species to state and tribal wildlife agencies, including CPW, on January 4, 2021. Litigation has been filed on the federal delisting decision. In the meantime, Colorado Parks and Wildlife remains the managing authority over wolves in the state. Even with the current federal delisting, the species remains listed as endangered under state law in Colorado, and take of gray wolves will remain prohibited.
CPW will utilize the 2004 working group plan until the new plan is developed.
Where would migrating or newly introduced wolves come from?
Wolves that migrate in and out of Colorado would likely come from the Northern Rockies populations currently in the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
The plan being developed as a result of Proposition 114 will determine where and from which packs any new wolves being introduced will come from; this will be determined with partnering state and federal agencies.
Wolf Sighting and Confirmations
There are known wolves in the state.
Over the past decade we have confirmed or have had probable wolf dispersals that occurred in 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2015.
In the summer of 2019 a wolf from the Snake River Pack (a pack in Wyoming) was located in Jackson County, Colorado.
We received a report in January 2020 of six large canids that were seen near the Wyoming and Utah borders. CPW staff were able to locate and visually confirm the presence of the pack. Staff have since received additional sighting reports and photos of this pack.
Most recently, agency staff placed a GPS tracking collar on a wolf in the north-central part of the state. The wolf's presence was confirmed in late January 2021 when it was seen with the wolf from the Snake River pack. In June 2021, staff observed pups with this pair, becoming the first documented breeding pair in the state in several decades.
We typically field around 100 sightings each year. When confirmed sightings occur, the number of additional reports spike. However, wolf reports are typically not considered reliable without strong supporting evidence.
Think you’ve seen a wolf in Colorado?
Help biologists by filling out the Wolf Sighting Form
Wolf Management Resources