Wolves that were once lost are now found.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials tranquilized two wolves in North Park, near Walden, on Thursday and fitted them with tracking collars, agency spokesman Travis Duncan said in a release.
One of those wolves had already been collared once but its tracking device failed over the summer alongside similar tracking devices fitted on two other wolves in the pack, which caused state officials to lose track of the predators.
Consternation has followed the Walden wolf pack for well over a year. Two wolves naturally migrated into the area, just south of the Wyoming border, and soon after produced a litter of six pups.
Then the killings started.
To date, the pack has killed at least five cows and two dogs, serving as a warning for Western Slope residents who opposed the state’s controversial plan to reintroduce more predators over the next few years.
Environmentalists and biologists supporting the reintroduction effort argue instead that wolves naturally belong to the region (until humans hunted them to near extinction) and their presence is necessary for a healthy ecosystem.
Only three of the eight wolves wore tracking collars and after each of the devices failed this summer, people questioned whether the animals had been killed or migrated out of the region.
Reports surfaced in October that hunters legally killed three wolves in Wyoming, near North Park, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said at the time that it’s possible those wolves belonged to the Walden Pack but they couldn’t confirm.
In recent weeks state wildlife officials fielded reports of sightings in the area and on Thursday they tranquilized two from a helicopter and fitted them with tracking devices. One of those wolves, an elder male, had been wearing one of the collars that broke and Eric Odell, a species conservation program manager with the agency, said he could tell it was damaged.
“Wolves are rough on collars and that’s to be expected that in time collars will fail,” Odell said in a release.
Both wolves also appear to be in good health, Odell said.
The tracking collars provide point-in-time data for where the wolves have been, which can be used to confirm whether they’re responsible for attacks on pets and livestock as well as studying the animals’ habits.
Duncan noted that wildlife officials also rely on physical evidence like tracks and scat to follow the predators.
State officials have not yet reintroduced any wolves to the Western Slope. They’re currently holding public meetings as part of the process to finalize a plan, which will likely include reintroducing up to 50 wolves over the next three to five years.
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