Signs of possible wolf pack reported north of De Beque

A biologist working for the owner of High Lonesome Ranch north of De Beque has reported the possibility of a wolf pack on the ranch property.

Cristina Eisenberg said she has found scat and tracks that indicate at least one wolf, and possibly a pack, has set up housekeeping on the ranch.

Eisenberg reported she and her crew found approximately 18 separate indicators of wolf activity over a seven-month period, although no wolf was ever seen or photographed.

Eisenberg said she sent the scat to a lab at the University of California-Los Angeles for DNA study.

Officially, there are no wolves in Colorado, although several have been reported traveling through the state over the past few years.

In 2009, a young female wolf from Yellowstone National Park’s wolf recovery program trekked some 1,000 miles from southwestern Montana to Meeker, where it was found dead last April.

The wolf’s death is still under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The previous-known wolf to make it this far south was killed on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs in 2004.

Ed Bangs, head of the Western Grey Wolf Recovery project for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said he first heard last spring from Eisenberg about the reported Colorado wolf.

He said it’s possible a wolf might have made it unseen into Colorado, but the nature of wolves themselves makes it unlikely without further proof.

“We’ll see if this report pans out,” he said. “In order to have a wolf pack, a wolf would have had to show up at least a year ago, and wolves rapidly become very obvious.”

Wolves are “incredibly obvious” compared to other animals, Bangs said. “Wolves walk 15–20 miles a day, in the same places people like to walk. You can’t really miss wolves.”

Plus, the very slim chances that a female wolf would travel to Colorado and find a male wolf with which to breed makes the possibility of an existing pack even more remote, Bangs said.

Bangs said he gets reports “all the time” about possible wolf sightings.

“We get reports from all over and all we say is ‘Thank you very much,’ ” he said. “We appreciate the reports of wolf sightings,  but until we and the (Colorado) Division of Wildlife decide there actually is something there, this doesn’t mean anything more than a wolf might have walked through there.”

DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said the agency has been talking to ranch owner Paul Vahldiek Jr.

“But until we get some solid proof, we consider it as an unverified report and that’s all,” Hampton said.

Bangs said should the report prove factual, the Fish and Wildlife Service has a “fool-proof” monitoring system to figure out where the wolf came from.

Grey wolves are listed as endangered in Colorado, Wyoming and most of Utah but earlier this year were delisted in all of Montana, Idaho, the eastern third of Oregon and a small piece of northern Utah.

“The bottom line is wolves might not make peoples’ lives better but they certainly make our conversation better,” Bangs said.


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