War Surrounding Colorado Wolfpack Enters New Battleground

Gray Wolf in Snow

State Officials/Governor Kill Bid to Lethally Remove Problem Wolves

Trevor Phipps


Less than five months after wolves were reintroduced to Colorado following a voter-approved proposition in 2020, the heated issue surrounding the release of the wild canines has ignited into a battle between state wildlife officials and ranchers in the impacted areas.

More fuel was added to the fight recently, with state officials saying no to a legal request to take lethal action against wolves that ranchers believe are responsible for a slew of livestock-related deaths and carnage. This denial has outraged many ranchers, who say their livelihood, and even their family’s future, is at stake.

Residents and landowners in Teller County are also concerned with reports of some of the problem wolves possibly edging closer to our area. Plus, the wolf situation is on the local political radar, with Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams serving as a member of the Colorado Wildlife Council.  He worries about the strong emotion the wolf situation has created, with more residents falsely blaming local game wardens and exhibiting their frustration with the state’s wolf re-introduction program on them.

Opinions are widely mixed throughout the county, which also serves as home of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, a group dedicated to the education and rescue of wolves and wolf-hybrids. Center leaders have strongly supported the state’s program, citing it as an integral part of restoring balance to the ecosystem, and want to see more wolves get introduced, based on recent social media posts.

This controversy, though, isn’t going away.

After one more calf became the victim of wolf depredation towards the end of April (making the total eight since wolves were reintroduced last December), the North Park Stockgrowers Association has once again written a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Division urging them to take lethal action against the wolves responsible for the deaths.


Earlier in April when there were only seven documented cases of livestock depredation, the stockgrowers’ association and other groups of ranchers in Northern Colorado said that letters written to Governor Polis and CPW officials were ignored. But CPW did eventually respond to the ranchers saying that they couldn’t lethally remove the wolf they believed was responsible for the depredations because they had thought it was a male who was currently mating with a female.


“Removing the male breeder at this point would be irresponsible management and potentially cause the den to fail, possibly resulting in the death of the presumed pups. This is not a desirable result and I am therefore not going to take action at this time to lethally remove this animal,” CPW Director Jeff Davis wrote.


But the ranchers in the area fear that the wolves could teach the new pups bad habits. The ranchers said in their letter to CPW that state officials should try harder to prevent wolves from becoming “chronic depredators” where they repeatedly kill livestock.


“Chronic depredators must be dealt with; den or no den. The ‘presumed pups’ have already or will acquire a taste for beef. Are we not setting them up for failure, to be chronic depredators? We again ask for the prompt removal of chronic depredating wolves in Grand and Jackson counties,” the North Park Stockgrowers Association wrote.


The governor has also shown little remorse for the livestock lost to the wolf depredations after standing strongly behind CPW’s stance to not lethally remove any wolves at this point. “Voters knew that wolves would eat cattle, and they voted to reintroduce them anyway,” Gov. Polis told 9 News in Denver.


New Wolf Tracking Map Released; One Wolf Found Deceased


On April 23, CPW released its newest version of its Collared Gray Wolf Activity Map that shows where the wolves have traveled since, they were reintroduced late last year. Although the wolves seem to keep travelling further and further away from where they were released in Summit and Grand Counties, they have not yet made it close to Teller County or into any of Teller’s neighboring counties.

But some fear it is just a matter of time before they arrive in Teller.


The wolves have traveled south of Interstate 70 in Eagle and Summit Counties but they have not ventured any further south in the last month. The wolves have moved further north (possibly even into Wyoming), west in Moffat County and east in Larimer County.


On April 18, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) became aware that one of the 10 wolves released into Colorado in December was found deceased in Larimer County. The USFWS in partnership with CPW is currently investigating the wolf’s death since the gray wolf is a federally listed species under the Endangered Species Act.


As of press time, no official cause of death had been released as investigators were waiting on results from a necropsy. But initial reports did suggest that the wolf had died from natural causes.