Gray wolf pups born in Colorado for first time in 80 years

Gray wolf pups were born in Colorado for the first time in nearly 80 years, state wildlife officials said this week.

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A Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist and district wildlife manager each confirmed the litter of at least three wolf pups with their parents, two adult wolves, Gov. Jared Polis said in a release. Wolf litters typically have four to six pups, so officials believe there could be more.

“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, state wildlife biologist, said in a 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.”

A small pack of gray wolves, believed to have travelled from Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, were sighted since 2019. Officials confirmed the presence of another small pack in northwestern Colorado last year. The animals were hunted, trapped and poisoned to the brink of extermination in Colorado in the 1940s.

Last year, voters narrowly approved a measure that allows the state to reintroduce the species to public lands in the western part of the state by the end of 2023. Critics said the presence of the animals indicates reintroduction is unnecessary. Ranchers, hunters and farmers said reintroduction is also a threat to livestock and the state’s hunting industry. Advocates believe reintroduction will help speed up efforts to restore the wolf to habitat from Canada to Mexico.

Gray wolves, while protected in Colorado, lost their federal protection earlier this year. Hunting them in Colorado remains illegal. Violators could be fined, jailed and lose their hunting license.

“We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado,” Polis said in a statement. “These pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.