Possible wolf sighting in Rocky Mountain National Park called “credible” by officials

This may be very good news. Of course, much better new would be two large “canids.”

Colorado does have wolf management guidelines in place. Rocky Mountain National Park is overfull of elk, so many the Park Service wants to start shooting them.

Story in the Estes Park Trail-Gazettte. By John Cordsen.






  1. Todd Avatar

    Great news indeed! One wolf pack + volunteers to make sure they are all not shot/trapped/poisoned will profoundly change RMNP for the better. The viewing in RMNP will not be as good as Lamar Valley, but watching a pack of wolves crossing the alpine tundra will a great moment. I am looking forward to it. Todd

  2. vicki Avatar

    Right On!!! I have been waiting for this. I had a hunch it’d be soon. I spend a lot of time in RMNP and Walden, and it is all prime area for wolves. I’ll be watching in the park on Christmas Day!!! My only question is, what exactly are our guidlenines in Colorado? And when do they need to be federally approved? I didn’t think that they had anything set in stone yet. Is Sinapu going to be on the front line here?

  3. Jennifer Bohn Avatar
    Jennifer Bohn

    The Colorado Division of Wildlife put something together on wolf management after the Swan Lake wolf was hit and killed on I-70. It may be published on their website. I heard the news about the RNP sighting this morning and I was elated!!!! A Christmas present for our home state!

  4. Todd Avatar

    Wolves in CO will not have federal oversight. Wolves will be managed by the Division of Wildlife. The current rule in CO is that wolves can go anywhere they want. Wolves that get into cattle or otherwise cause problems will be removed. I don’t think the working group ever got into the fine details regarding removal. Defenders has already agreed to extend its compensation program into CO.

    Here are the first two recommendations from the working group:

    • Migrating wolves should be allowed to live with no boundaries where they find habitat. Wolf distribution in Colorado will ultimately be defined by the interplay between ecological needs and social tolerance.

    • If wolves are causing problems, manage to resolve the problem. When negative impacts occur, they should be addressed on a case-by-case basis utilizing a combination of appropriate management tools and damage payments. Allow take of wolves to manage depredations. Flexibility should be maintained in the array of management tools available to accommodate changing circumstances over time. These management tools include a variety of lethal and non-lethal methods authorized under the Colorado Wildlife Commission regulation 1002.B.4 (federal Endangered Species Act 4(d) rule) for wolves in the Western Distinct Population Segment (WDPS).

    The full document can be found at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/NR/rdonlyres/619DF3FC-A0DE-4AB1-A606-8334764466E2/0/recomendations.pdf

  5. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel


    I believe you are incorrect on one point; wolves are still protected as endangered (not threatened under the 10j classification) until they are delisted here in Colorado by FWS. The rest of your post is correct as I remember what the Wolf Working Group came up with. For clarification, contact Rob Edwards of Sinapu.

    A couple of years ago, I spotted, what I thought was a wolf, in upper Sand Wash Basin. It is about 10 miles south of the Wyoming border and 40 miles west of the Utah border. It is a very desolate area with elk, pronghorn, wild horses and deer everywhere. Aside from the obsticles (I-80 and a lot of ranching) I am surprised there haven’t been more sightings in northwestern Colorado.

  6. Todd Avatar


    Ed Bangs came to the first Working Group meeting and said “We (FWS) are not interested in wolves in Colorado” — then he showed a few funny slides before ending with “good luck and good bye.” At the time the I-70 dividing line was in place — which is either in limbo or no longer valid depending on how one interprets the ruling in the 10th circuit. So from a legal standpoint, the feds may well be the governing body until delisting is final — but in practical terms FWS is not much interested in the gray wolf outside WY/MT/ID.

    Who has oversight of the wolves in Oregon?


  7. TH Avatar

    Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

    We have a state Endangered Species Act and they are listed.

  8. catbestland Avatar

    This is indeed GREAT news. We need to scare a few more of them out of Wyoming where they will be shot on sight to the relatively safety of Colorado. At least under the current Guidelines they will be protected. From what I understand, if they make it to the south I-70 they will be Federally protected.

  9. Buffaloed Avatar

    Here is another story with a photo of a footprint. It looks like a wolf track to me and I’ve seen and made plaster casts of my share of tracks.

  10. Vicki Avatar

    Okay, those guidelines seem to be very vague. I think that’s where problems may come into play. However…. Colorado is slightly less ranch and slightly more yuppie than WY/MT/ID. I don’t think I’d say wolves are safe. That remains an elussive dream. But they do seem to be adapting to circumstances in other states, by dispersing. I can only wonder if their numbers are going to increase consistently, or if they will just become more sparse in their distribution. With their ranges increasing, how likely is reproduction? Since we’ve only heard of loners in Coorado, I question if they are establishing packs and populations outside of the GYE (and areas around there), or just running away from the dangers there? One wolf cannot reproduce. So unless packs travel down, I don’t see wolves being a big presence here. Still, one wolf is better than none.
    This is ironic in light of recent decisions to deal with the over-populated elk in RMNP. Maybe someone in higher power is laughing a us right now.
    Please excuse my spelling.

  11. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    Wolves in Colorado are also state listed as endangered.

  12. Todd Avatar

    Rick et al.,

    What is the relationship between the state endangered species “act” and the real ESA? A few years ago when working with CO DoW on their otter tracking/monitoring project, CO (mostly Owen’s I think) downlisted the river otter. As far as I know was no formal process to the downlisting. There is no legal recourse as far as I could tell because the listing itself did not set in motion any specific actions. It seems to me that the state ESAs are great for drawing attention to a species and might help in the plan process, but as far as a legal vehicle they seem to lack any teeth. Is this view correct?


  13. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel


    Funny you should bring up otters. My wife spotted one just west of Hayden a couple of years ago. This was an area that DOW reintroduced some. How that population is doing is anybody’s guess.

    As far as the state ESA is concerned, you are quite correct. It has no teeth. DOW’s local biologist, Brad Petch, kept me fairly informed. But he got promoted and was transferred to Gran Junction. Too bad, he was a good ally.

  14. Trent Avatar

    The biggest difference between the state and federal ESAs is that the federal Act protects not only the animal, but it’s habitat as well. Under the federal Act, the term “take” is much more defined to include such things as harassment etc. The CO Act only protects the actual animal and does not have the teeth to protect habitat or even the animal from some types of indirect impacts.

    Here is an example that I have experienced. A few years back, USFWS requested that a project I was working on in CO have surveys conducted for black-footed ferrets. To conduct the surveys, I needed a federal permit since the spot lighting techniques used were considered harassing if a ferret should be seen in the light. I applied for permits from the CDOW and was told that there were no permits/approvals needed unless I was going to set traps and actually touch the animal.

    Hope this helps.

    In the mean time, having worked with wolves in ANWR, and having seen them in Wyoming and Montana, I am greatly thrilled by the prospects of hearing a wolf’s howl when the family and I are in the Park listening to the elk bugle. It’s always a thrill for the kids to hear the coyotes yip during the bugling, but a wolf howl, that would be awesome.

  15. vicki Avatar

    I just got in from RMNP. We asked a ranger about the sighting. He was either uninformed, or hushing it up. I think he was hushing it up, because he wasn’t surprised at all that he was asked.
    I did go to the Morraine Park area. I saw what I always do, coyotes and a ton of elk. But no wolf. I suppose he could have been passing through, or just a domestic dog. Or like all wolves, very good at not being seen. At a distance it’d be hard to judge, due to the brush and trees. It’d be hard to make a size comparison. However, there are many homes in that valley. So I wonder about it being a large dog.
    Either way, I don’t think the park service is ready for the fall out. Or they are trying hard to protect this wolf.

  16. Matty Avatar

    This is intereting news. Sounds fairly credible.
    There will be alot of support for this in the area by locals.

  17. mark miller Avatar
    mark miller

    On wedsenday while driving though Ward colorado at 5:30 am I saw an animal in the road that took off running when it saw me . At first I thought it might be a wolf but then I didn’t think there were wolves in colorado so I thought it must of been a healthy looking coyote. Then thursday night on the news they said a wolf might be in RMNP. So now i’m not sure what I saw. I know it was no dog.

  18. JoAnn Avatar

    The Yellowstone wolves have been making their way down the Rocky Mountain corridor and there have been a handful of sitings in Colorado published and not published over the last few years. I heard a repeated sound that was uncannily like the howl of a wolf one snowy fall day in 2005 not far from the Longs Peak trailhead in RMNP. I sent an email about this and received a response from an RMNP ranger who hotly denied the possibility. This fall, my mother and I spotted a wolf in Boulder County. It required a double take, but no coyote is that big. They are in Colorado, and thankfully for the safety of the wolves from us, their presence has been kept a bit quiet.

  19. vicki Avatar

    I am also aware of wolves which are not reported. I doubt we’ll hear much else about a RMNP wolf, because it would reflect adly on the recent descision on how to handle over-populate elk in RMNP.
    I’m kind of torn about wether or not to report wolf sightings. If no one reports them, ranchers can kill them without consequence. You can’t prosecute them for killing a wolf that no one verified existed. That is my fear about wolves in an area where they likely enter the state, and pass through cattle ranches.
    One wolf in RMNP is great, but if it is just one, it will likely stay just one. If it were two, male and female, it would have been much bigger news, and harder to hide.

  20. Matt Avatar

    Matt…. “There will be a lot of support for this in the area by locals” yeah until the wolf eats one of their little dogs. Then they will be up in arms about how dangerous these creatures are. I for one am excited, if we get enough support from forums like this eventually there will be a huntable population. The natural areas that EVERYONE is allowed access to, including these wolfs, are primarily funded by the sale of hunting and fishing permits. Once we have a large enough population, the DOW can issue wolf permits and make more revenue to continue support of our wild species here in Colorado. Let the hunters of Colorado continue to provide for a wonderful environment for all of Colorado’s animals, its a great system, the state benefits and we get to go out and have some fun in the spirit of conservation and sportsmanship.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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