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Mountain lion likely killed one of 10 wolves released in Colorado

Fish & Wildlife says lions hunting wolves ‘is not unheard of’
A gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. (Associated Press file)

A gray wolf found dead in Larimer County last month had puncture wounds in its skull that suggest it was killed by a mountain lion, an initial necropsy report shows.

The wolf was one of 10 released in December in Summit and Grand counties, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in an email last month.

Because wolves are on the federal endangered species list, the wolf carcass was sent to FWS labs for examination. The preliminary report released Tuesday found the cause of death to be “trauma consistent with predation.”

“Predation of gray wolves by mountain lions is not unheard of,” FWS spokesperson Joe Szuszwalak said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “In recent years there are at least three confirmed reports of this occurring in Washington and Oregon.”

Wolves captured in Oregon were released in Colorado at the direction of voters. Five were placed in southwestern Grand County. Five others were released in Summit County. Since then, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has released maps each month showing the animals ranging into drainages south of Interstate 70 in Eagle County and to the Wyoming border and well into Larimer County in the north.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife released its latest Collared Gray Wolf Activity Map on April 24. The map shows wolves traveling the farthest east they have since reintroduction in December 2023. A day before the map was released, officials reported one of the collared wolves was found dead in Larimer County. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, via The Colorado Sun)

A CPW spokesman declined to say where in Larimer County the dead wolf was found, but noted “before gray wolves have formed packs, a wolf traveling alone in Colorado can be more at risk from other predators like mountain lions.”

Since the release in December, ranchers have reported cattle killed by wolves, including four attributed to a male in Grand County. Stockgrowers in Grand, Summit and Jackson counties have repeatedly requested that CPW kill the wolf. However, CPW director Jeff Davis has said the agency will not remove the animal because tracking collars suggest it has mated.

Killing the male, he said, would put the pups at risk, which would run counter to the objectives of Proposition 114, which directed the state to restore wolves to the Western Slope. The state’s detailed plan suggests the species will be considered recovered when there are about 200 wolves in 25 packs across Colorado.

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