Colorado has confirmed the birth of its first litter of wolf pups in nearly 80 years, state officials announced on Wednesday.
In a press release, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said that a biologist and district wildlife manager who work for the agency had both independently spotted pups born to the collared wolves M2101 (nicknamed John) and F1084 (dubbed Jane) between June 4 and 8. In an effort to not disturb the family, the observers spied on the wolves’ den from a distance of about two miles away.
While the agency said it had confirmed the birth of three pups, it didn’t rule out the possibility that there are 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,” said Libbie Miller, a wildlife biologist with the agency. “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.”
Adding a twist to the story, researchers had originally believed that F1084, which was born into Wyoming’s Snake River pack before migrating into Colorado, was male. It wasn’t until CPW biologists observed her beginning to create a den that they realized the wolf had been mislabeled.
The announcement comes as Colorado is in the planning stages for a first-of-its-kind, state-led wolf reintroduction program. Last November, voters in the state narrowly approved a resolution instructing Colorado Parks and Wildlife to begin to release the predators. While some reintroduction opponents pointed to the arrival last year of Jane, as well as another six-animal-strong pack, as evidence that wolves were naturally recolonizing the state and that artificially reintroducing them was a waste of money, researchers say that the wolves’ low numbers, as well as the lack of protections from Wyoming and other states they could potentially cross into, means that the current population isn’t viable over the long term.
“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s. We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado,” Governor Jared Polis said in the press release. “With voter passage last year of the initiative to require re-introduction of the wolf by the end of 2023, these pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families.”