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It’s a pup! Colorado wildlife officials confirm Grand County wolves have reproduced.

Two of the nine surviving wolves transplanted to Colorado have mated. Their success means they’re officially a pack, known as the Copper Creek pack.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife released five gray wolves onto public land in Grand County on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Pictured is wolf 2302-OR, a juvenile female from the Five Points pack in Oregon, weighing 68 pounds. (Jerry Neal/Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

At least one pup was been born to a pair of wolves transplanted to Colorado from Oregon in December.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Thursday evening said a gray wolf pup was spotted on June 18 in Grand County but said it is likely as many as five more were born.

Biologists tracking location data noted in early April that a female’s collar had stopped uploading GPS coordinates, but then resumed sending data later in the month. This led the biologists to believe she was likely in a den.

Though CPW did not release a photo or video footage of the pup, a news release said biologists had observed the area where the female’s collar was transmitting from the air and ground, using remote cameras and public reports. The biologists will continue to observe the denning area to see if there are more pups. “It is possible that other pups may be present, as wolf litters commonly consist of four to six pups,” CPW wrote.

This is the first birth of a gray wolf since wolves were reintroduced at the direction of Colorado voters. At least three pups were born in Jackson County in spring of 2021 to a pair of wolves that migrated naturally into Colorado from Wyoming. That litter was the first in Colorado since the species was extirpated 80 years before.

Colorado voters narrowly passed Proposition 114 in November 2020, directing state wildlife officials to begin reintroducing wolves west of the Continental Divide by the end of 2023.

Because a pair of the 10 wolves released on state land has reproduced, that family group is considered a pack and has been named the Copper Creek pack by state wildlife officials. One of the transplanted wolves, a yearling female, was killed in Larimer County, likely by a mountain lion.

“We are continuing to actively monitor this area while exercising extreme caution to avoid inadvertently disturbing the adult wolves, this pup, or other pups,” CPW Wildlife Biologist Brenna Cassidy said in the news release.

CPW also said it will work with landowners in the area to implement practices to minimize the potential for conflict.

The reintroduction of wolves on the Western Slope of Colorado has been fraught with conflict, with ranchers in Grand, Jackson and Routt counties reporting at least a dozen cows and calves killed.

On Friday morning, Merrit Linke, a Grand County commissioner and fifth-generation rancher, said news of the pup was no surprise to ranchers who had been informed “a breeding pair, thus pack, was forming based on behavior.”

And ranchers now “know it’s just a matter of time that these pups are taught to hunt,” he said.

Darlene Kobobel, founder of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center near Divide, said proper mitigation practices can reduce depredation. The advocacy group, she said, is “super excited” by the news of the successful breeding.

“We believe wolves belong on the landscape,” she said. “As a pro-wolf facility, we are not against ranchers and their livelihood. We voted for wolves because they belong and are such an important part of the natural balance.”

“It’s possible to work together and the pro-wolf side and CPW have no problems doing that,” she said. “We feel if there are non-lethal deterrents that can be used and compensation given for any losses, then can’t we be fair with having wolves that are native on our Colorado landscape? If compensation is a question, then let’s go back to the commissioners and vote to increase it.”

The movements of gray wolves outfitted with tracking collars April 23-May 21, 2024. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Since they were released in southwestern Grand County and at an undisclosed location in Summit County, GPS tracking data has showed the animals ranging as far west as Moffat County, east into Larimer County and near the Boulder and Gilpin county lines, and north to Wyoming.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.