Have gray wolves found a home in Colorado?
By Ralph Maughan On February 8, 2010 · 41 Comments · In Wolves
A detailed feature story from High Country News says so-
Prodigal Dogs. Have gray wolves found a home in Colorado? By Michelle Nijhuis. High Country News.
Tagged with: Colorado • Colorado wolves • wolf migration
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.
41 Responses to Have gray wolves found a home in Colorado?
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Interesting article. I sure hope wolves find a home in Colorado.
Great article, here’s a related one:
Surveys have shown a majority of Coloradans support wolves but it is usually ranchers and some hunters that oppose them who have more influence on policy.
Still, encouraging news!
Good article! I hope they are in Colorado too….
“It smelled distinctively earthy, like a shady forest floor.” Ummmmmm, really? Have you ever rally smelled wolf scat? It is the most foul-smelling scat–not even close to an shady forest floor–unless that forest floor is very rotten and has been urinated on with very strong smelling ammonia urine.
“Less than a week later, Eisenberg’s lead tracker, Dan Hansche, found a wolf-like scat with a similar, smaller scat laid on top — suggesting, Eisenberg says, that an adult wolf had been teaching its pup to mark territory.” Or a coyote scat on top of the larger scat??
I am not doubting that wolves could be there, but these statements don’t sound like they are coming from someone who knows much about wolves–or at least wolf scat. Eisenberg obviously has experience but comments like this don’t make it sound like it.
if it is a confirmed pack than let me be the 1st in Colorado to say “Welcome Back Wolves!” My biggest concern with this information is that location of the wolves is listed- making them easy targets for poachers, which is what I suspect happened with 341F.
The photo of the wolf scat does look like wolf poop that I have found many times while trying to get close enough to photograph wolves in Idaho. Fresh wolf poop is black like in the photo and it turns white and powdery after bleaching in the sun and being rained on. It is generally full of hair and bits of bone. Foxes will often leave their scat on top of other poop and I suspect that coyotes might do so as well. Wolves are biologically programed to mark their territories, it doesn’t require any teaching.
They should be howling everytime they find any sign. Wolves within hearing range, will always answer back if you come close to sounding like one. They will also come to investigate to see who is howling. Gerry is right about the smell.
You can also tell who ate what by the scat. The alpha’s scat is generally darker and free(ier) of bones and hide because they get to eat first and get the good stuff like the liver, etc.
While studying wolves it helps to know your shit.
Sure looks like wolf poop to me. Always good to do photo scale. The color is right for the fresh stuff. And, yes it has a more robust aroma than an earthy forest floor smell.
Eisenberg has been studying wolves for awhile, so seems eminently qualified to make the confirmation. She is/was a grad student of Dr. Ripple (trophic cascade scientist) at Oregon St.
Dr Val Geist comments on Hydatid diseases
Synopsis Wolf February 7th 2010
We can summarize matters pertaining to the presence of hydatid disease as follows. As expected, following some time after the spread of wolves, there was the entry of sylvatic hydatid Echinococcus granulosus disease into said wolf populations and associated prey. Earlier on fox tape worm, E. multilocularis had spread into the NW United States and I understand that it is still spreading. This dreaded parasite has been reported from foxes and coyotes. Since E. multilocularis has been reported from wolves in Europe, and since wolves may be avid “mousers”, opportunity permitting, it is likely that E. multulocularis will be reported in American wolves as well. As you are aware E. multilocularis cycles primarily between canids and rodents (mainly voles). Moreover, since the pastoral type of E. granulosus is found cycling between domestic sheep and dogs further south, it is likely that, in time, stray wolves will pick up this variant of hydatid disease. Consequently, we expect wolves, eventually, to be carriers of sylvatic, pastoral and alveolar hydatid disease.
You may have noticed that there is some discrepancy in the accounts of hydatid disease emanating from wildlife agencies as opposed to accounts by clinicians. My understanding of hydatid disease, which I have carried with me ever since my student days over 40 years ago, matches that of the clinicians. It is a silent disease, difficult to diagnose, with little specificity in symptoms, gradually developing worse over 10-20 years, and, depending on the location and number of cysts, ranging in effects from benign to lethal. It is particularly dangerous to anyone engaged in an active, sporting lifestyle, since blows to the body can lead to rupture of cysts with dreadful consequences, and prolonged, costly treatment. Alveolar hydatid disease in particular is likely to be lethal.
It is well known that domestic dogs play a very large risk factor in hydatid disease. Unlike in Northern Canada or Alaska, in the West one is dealing with much greater densities of people, dogs and carrier species such as deer or elk. High incidents of the parasite in wolves and coyotes and a high infestation rate with cysts in lungs and liver of deer and elk, put at risk the ranching, farming and rural communities. In winter time deer and elk will frequently be found on ranches close to communities. Dogs from ranches, farms and hamlets will have access to winter killed carcasses of deer and elk as well as to offal left in the field during the hunting season. Once infected with dog tape worm, the ranch and house dogs will contaminate the yard, porches, living rooms etc with hydatid eggs. There is no escape from this! Ten to twenty years down the road, hydatid disease will raise its head, in particular in persons who as toddlers crawled over floors walked over by people and dogs carrying in hydatid eggs from the outside. Please inform yourself what this is likely to mean in terms of prognosis, suffering and costs!
We know that in the past there were attempts in Finland and in Russia to eliminate, or at least control hydatid disease. In Finland the eradication of hydatid disease was accomplished by diminishing wolf numbers and treating domestic dogs with antihelmithic drugs. I am suggesting that eliminating hydatid disease be discussed, and suggest the following approach.
1.) Assuming the number of wolf packs can be reduced so as to retain a vibrant, abundant prey base, that developmental studiues proceed on how to create bait stations that are accepted by wolves, with bait containing anti-helminthic drugs that are readily eaten by wolves. I am aware that this will not be a quick project. Rather I expect that wolves will accept bait stations, let alone the bait, only very gradually. It will take time, experimentation and sophisticated know how to make bait stations operational. However, once accepted by wolves, the bait stations will break the hydatid cycle between wolves and ungulates. Over time, this will lead to diminished infections of deer and elk, and this with re-infection with the parasite by wolves and coyotes.
2.) Unfortunately, under moist and cold conditions hydatid eggs remain viable for months and may even infect after three and a half years. Under dry, hot conditions the eggs die quickly. Burning the under story in forests will not eliminate the dangers from hydatid eggs, but will certainly reduce such. It’s a policy worth looking at.
3.) Simultaneously, a thorough campaign must be initiated to regularly de-worm dogs in danger areas as well as encourage specific hygienic measures. Here it means winning the ears and the trust of the rural communities.
Finally we have to look to history. Wolves have been exterminated from lived in landscapes universally because they, or their diseases, posed a serious threat to affected people, livestock and wild life. The lessons from history are that we can at best live with wolves if such are relatively few, the abundance of natural prey is high, and the risk from diseases non existent. We have the means and intelligence to achieve such.
Val Geist, PhD., Professional Biologist
Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science
A brief search shows this to be primarily a disease spread by domestic dogs, but it infects a host of other animals all around the world.
There are also many other parasites, including other tapeworms, and worms that can be acquired from livestock, such as pigs, and wild animals. This is from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources.
Echinococcosis (Cystic Hydatid Disease) is an emerging disease found in many parts of the world. There are at least nine strains of E. granulosus that have adapted to different hosts and in most cases occupy a wide geographical area. There are pastoral and sylvatic forms of the disease affecting domestic and wild animals, respectively. The pastoral form has been reported in sheep and dogs from the Mediterranean region, South America, Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia, Mongolia, China, and Oceania. A horse and dog cycle has been reported from Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and possibly the United States (Maryland). A cattle and dog cycle has been reported in Belgium, Germany, South Africa, and Switzerland; a swine and dog cycle has been reported in Poland; a reindeer and dog cycle has been reported in the subarctic regions of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Alaska; and a camel and dog cycle has been reported in Iran. In Australia the pastoral form has spilled over into wildlife and has been reported in kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, feral dogs, dingoes, and foxes. The sylvatic form has been reported in sheep, jackals, hyenas, warthogs, bushpigs, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, and lions in Africa and moose, elk, caribou, white-tailed deer, wolf, coyote, and feral dogs in North America and Eurasia.
Not surprisingly, those who hate wolves are trying to make it appear they are having a major effect amplifying this infestation. This is not true because the number of wolves is small compared to dogs and coyotes.
I see those who hate wolves have taken to the Internet to try to spread fear because every state fish and game department, and the media in general, have not taken to this story except as a warming to wash your hands after handling wild animals, free roaming dogs, and to avoid sniffing scat.
Regarding the story on 2-8-2010 about possible wolves in Colorado, and the biologist sniffing the wolf scat; I think this is unwise unless there is a barrier between the scat and the nose.
The more I hear from Val Giest, the more I have come to see him as an alarmist who is all for the eradication of wild animals. His remedies are truly an indication that he believes that anything in the wild must and can be manipulated by humans. I have lost any idea that he is a credible source of information on anything relative to the natural cycles of life.
Interesting – according to the CDC website, the trapping and transporting of wolves has played a part in the spread of this disease from the Alaskan coast and Canada. Does anyone know if the CDC obtained their information from Val Giest?
If anyone has a disagreement with Dr. Geist’s view, the best, and most scientifically defensible way is to challenge it in-kind. Other scientists with the proper credentials and experience to either debunk or support Dr. Geist’s call to action. He has spent his entire life as an ungulate scientist, and has done some work with wolves. He is a well respected scientist, keen observationist, and is insightful. Whether he is an alarmist in regard to the potential impacts of tapeworm distribution by any canid is something that should be looked into by communicable disease specialists, if it already has not. It shouldn’t just be Geist or some state natural resource agency website that is the authority.
Foxes, coyotes, wolves, dogs – seems each is a capable of being a part of the problem. How big a risk is this grouping of diseases, now or in the future? Should this situation be managed, or can it be managed are the larger issues?
The scary part of this is the stealth of this tapeworm progression. Should we worry about it? I certainly won’t be smelling much wolf poop in the future.
Are you all set for a little Echinococcus hype? The European Echinokokkose-Register shows about 100 documented cases annually – all over Europe and already including an estimate for unreported cases. How to avoid it? Don’t touch scat and don´t skin foxes.
Bringing the disease a little closer to home, this is directly from the CDC website (Hard to say how often they update these informational articles, It appears this has not been updated since 9/23/04, so it could be more widely spread, and no doubt is based on the news reports we have seen indicating presence of tapeworms in wolves, and other canids that have been monitored in the NRM and elswhere):
“In North America E. multilocularis is found primarily in the north central region from eastern Montana to central Ohio, as well as Alaska and Canada. Human cases have been reported in Alaska, the province of Manitoba, and Minnesota. Prevalence among wild foxes and coyotes is high, and may reach over 50% in some areas; however, even in these areas, transmission to humans has been low.”
“How likely am I to be infected with AE?
For 50 years, E. multilocularis was thought to be confined to the Alaskan coast and Canada.
Now, because wild coyotes, foxes, and wolves are being trapped and transported to states where
E. multilocularis has not previously been found, there is increased risk of spreading the disease
to animals and humans. Wild animals carrying the tapeworm could set up the transmission cycle
and expose animals not already infected. Many states prohibit this movement of wild animals,
but trapping and movement of infected wild canines still occurs. If the transportation and
relocation of these animals continues, the risk of human transmission will increase. Although the
chances of contracting AE are low, certain groups may be at greater risk.
You may be at greater risk if you live in an area where E. multilocularis is found (see above).
People at high risk include trappers, hunters, veterinarians, or others who contact wild foxes,
coyotes, or their stool, or household cats and dogs who have the opportunity to eat wild rodents
infected with AE.”
Apparently the incidence in humans is low at present, but is Dr. Geist wrong about the spreading range and transmission potential of the disease? Does the latency and stealth of this parasite bother anyone?
I normally an just a lurker, but this one got my attention. I have been a dog groomer for just under 20 years and this past year I recieved a bright yellow paper from the health department warning about a parasite that is transmited from dog to human. Basically saying to wash our hands after handling feces, doing anal glands, and clipping hair. When the inspector came in for renewing my yearly license I was asked if I had recieved the warning notice. During our conversation she went on to say that it was a form of a worm that can be transmitted between human and dog. So what I’m thinking is how many people are exposed to domestic dogs vs. wild wolves? So why don’t they notify the general public about this matter with domestic dogs if it’s so horrible? And why carry on about the wolf when most people won’t even see one in their lifetime? I just see this whole wolf thing as a scare tactic so ranchers get their way. Just my two cents.
This is what is called an “emerging disease.” It is being spread by many animals, apparently on all continents.
Most folks don’t understand that almost all wild animals harbor one more more major parasites. Trout and other sportfish often harbor tapeworms. Read this:
You Don’t Want to Eat That [fish] Raw.
Yellowstone cutthroat trout harbor tapeworms, including the juvenile form. I knew about this the first time I caught them in the Thorofare. I cooked the fish well. They were delicious.
Val Geist clearly has an agenda to single out one relatively uncommon animal from a hundred others that spread this particular parasite. Everyone would do well to learn about the parasites they can pick up in the wild, from livestock, and from pets.
A few short articles about Echinococcus floculosus prior to wolf reintroduction:
central utah 1980
AZ & NM
A 2008 study in Germany indicates the registry in Europe under-reports the incidince of the disease, at least 3x under-reporting for this study. Up until 2000, it was voluntary. It seems the doctors don’t know they are supposed to report, or they don’t want to because the reporting requirements are too ominous – takes up too much time.
Source: Jorgensen P, an der Heiden M, Kern P, Schöneberg I, Krause
G, Alpers K. Underreporting of human alveolar echinococcosis, Germany. Emerg Infect Dis.
2008 Jun; [Epub ahead of print]
found at website: CFSPH Technical Fact Sheets. Echinococcosis
A little bit of the wild returning to CO! Yes! Now if we could coax some grizzlies down…
I agree completely with you.
I got giardia once. The doctor told me on the basis of a second parasite I had picked up (relatively harmless), that I probably got it from cattle feces.
Here is a closely related article, regarding dogs, that just appeared in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.
Forest: Doo-doo a no-no. By Cara Rank.
Picture pristine white beaches, crystal clear water and warm sunshine and air. Then take off you shoes to walk on the beach and come home with ringworm, fungus etc. all from gringos who walk their dogs on the beach and make it into a dog doo stew. In this little town in southern Baja, which is half gringos in the winter, 90% of them have dogs, and many have more than one.
I see this as a much bigger part of the problem of diseases spread to humans.
I hiked up Trail Creek above Sun Valley late last winter. There were dozens of people with dogs hiking in the area and the snow- packed trail was well supplied with dog feces. While there are a few that pick up behind their dogs, the majority must be pretending that they don’t see what their dogs are leaving for other people to step in.. The same problem exists in Yellowstone anywhere there is a pullout or campground. The rangers seem blind to the dogs pooping in the park. The old road to Gardiner often has dogs running loose in front of their owners’ truck. I think a lot of these dog owners work for the park service.
I read an article about a wildlife biologist studying bighorns on the Salmon River in Idaho that was using her dog to locate bighorn lambs. Not a good idea.
In 1970 Iwent to Banff National Park in Canada to capture and transport Bighorns to Idaho. Dr. Geists’ graduate students in the capture area had been throwing fire crackers at the Bighorns hoping to scare them, so we wouldn’t catch any of the Bighorns they were studying. I don’t know if Dr. Geist was involved in this or not. The Bighorns still came to the salt the park ranger put out for them and we brought the sheep back to Idaho anyway.
What an outstanding article! In a way, I am sorry to see it published. It will alert the livestock industry in NW Colorado that wolves are alive and well in our state.
A friend sighted a wolf, for the second time, near Craig. This time she went out and measure the pawprint in the snow. The print was 4″x4″. Not many coyotes that large.
There are a number of ranches that butt up to the Utah border. Most of these folks have been pretty militant in the opposition to any preditor on their land or allotment. In other words, they subscribe to the 3S philosophy; shoot, shovel and shutup.
I attended a number of meetings of the “Wolf Working Group,” formed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. What a joke! Of the 9 members, 6 were livestock or hunting influenced, including 2 county commissioners.
WIlves just don’t have much of a chance to persist in Colorado. Perhaps that is why FWS doesn’t want to get involved here.
++I attended a number of meetings of the “Wolf Working Group,” formed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. What a joke! Of the 9 members, 6 were livestock or hunting influenced, including 2 county commissioners.++
Is this the “Wolf Working Group” to which you refer (link below), and which of the members were livestock or hunting group influenced?
Rick, I have to agree, you wonder if it should be published when wolves are in places like Colorado. Same thing with grizzlies out of their usual home ranges.
I did not intend to come up with precise statistics. What I intended to say is: It seems people are always prone to accept a new hype (especially now, with the H1N1 paranoia fading). That tapeworm story is not new anyway. I very well remember when a few years ago people went hysterical after news spread they should no longer to pick berries from the wild because the fox tapeworm or eggs from it could stick on the bushes. The only new thing is that it is today used to feed the anti wolf circles with a new set of (lame) arguments. Again, to be safe, deploy basic hygienic precautions and do not skin or gut canides, twiddle with their scat (and pick berries only from bushes exceeding the height of your average wolf LOL). Relax, there is no need to start a new large scale canide killing campaign aka “management”. Hm, maybe some regret that? A last remark: The good thing is, it can take up to 15 years until the disease breaks out in you. :-))
Remember the HUGE scare several years ago about medical waster washing up on Eastern beaches, and people panicking about needles and picking up AIDS, etc. They closed beaches, scared the population half to death, and pressured EPA to write these rules governing medical waste when most of the hospitals and medical centers were doing 90% of what the rules eventually mandated.
I worked on those rules, I am reluctant to say, because as myself and another lawyer looked at the actual evidence, it was really much to do about not very much.
Crap happens. People get sick. Using something like this to justify a mass killing of one of many potential vectors is just human hysteria at its finest….again.
Wash your hands. Don’t be stupid when you are out in nature. Know your risks. And worry about the REAL dangers in the world…like folks in big SUVs on their cellphones, texting and driving…:*)
Sure hope wolves come back but cautiously optimistic. Still, too many wolf haters around.
It’s the height of arrogance that man thinks he’s above nature and has the “right” to get rid of a native animal (intelligent and incredibly majestic one) because he wants to?
What is the possibility that Colorado will see a wolf boom comparable to Idaho once a few breeding pairs get estalished? Could Colorado go from 6 to 30 to 800 in 10 years? Coloroado has more people than Idaho but the Central Rockies are massive and the elk herds of Colorado far exceed ID, MT or WY. Western Colorado is pretty much in line politically and socially with the rest of the rural west, but Denver, Boulder, and the ski towns combined make the state level politics much more progressive.
Consider this was a few years ago and my memory isn’t what it used to be. I looked over the membership list and what I can say is, it was pretty much ag,hunting and local government v. environmental in most discussions. The agencies pretty much stayed out of the voting.
Sorry for the confusion.
There has to be more than one wolf pack as founders of the population. Otherwise, there will be a genetic bottleneck before long.
I think it if fairly safe to assume that like Oregon if one pack establishes it won’t be long before others pop up and or finally get documented. Same goes for Utah, there has to be a fair number of wolves in the Uintas already.
I hunt, hike and fish in the area they are talking about. There are an abundance of elk, and ranchers and hunters there.
I have seen and heard what I believe were wolves in an area not too far from the High Lonesome. But I told nobody. I didn’t want to be responsible for SSS.
I suppose you have 6 of one, hlf dozen of another. If I had said something, they may have been protected? WHo knows.
I have spoken with a few rangers regarding such issues. I have been told of other species which remain ‘unseen’ on paper, so that ranchers in the area don’t get tipped off.
Colorado is a bit more socially diverse than Montana, Idaho or Wyoming. We may have a better shot at getting wolves managed well….but then again, we gave the DOI Salazar.
There is a profound need for predator base here. The CWD alone is evidence of such. The sad reality is, what we need often loses out to what some want.
Colorado and wolves are perhaps even more valid an arguement for ending grazing on public land. It is segmented in a bad way, by private land. If wolves were to establish a sustainable diversity here, they are going to need to be allowed unihibited access to as much public land as possible in order to deversify genetically.
The High Lonesome is a 300 square mile ranch, which is fee and leased. How many acres are fee, how many state and how many federal? I check there web site and the ranch feels that it is all there’s.
News article from the New West. The primary owner, Paul R. Vahldiek, Jr., of the High Lonesome seems to welcome wolves. He is a member of the Wildlands Network. The article says 300 square miles of deeded private and permitted BLM land.
People can learn from this guy…
Has anybody figured out yet that this is a very wealth Texas lawyer who has created a very expensive pay to play ranch that offers pheasant hunting, big game hunting, wine tasting, and may be setting it up for wolves (which is great). He gets lots of publicity for this, and while he and his partners do not have to make a profit, as other ranching folks do, they no doubt have a desire to get some return on their investment. If wolves do that for him, great. He may also see his hunting clientele success rate fall off considerably. Not a value judgment on my part, just a likely reality.
You really should visit his website if you do not believe me. And do notice the Cabelas and Orvis logos.
And, by the way, Coloradoan’s mostly dislike Texans. Its in their blood.
His web site is where I started. I figured he was wealthy but didn’t know he was a Texas lawyer. There are lots of places to hunt elk in Colorado but not many to watch wolves. That might make up for the lost clientele. Still sounds like a worthy endeavor to me.