MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. – State wildlife officials are trying to figure out if Colorado is once again a habitat for wolves.
Newly released video from October shows gray wolves in the northwest corner of the state on land managed by rancher George Raftopoulos and his family.
“Our ancestors spent a long time getting rid of the wolves,” Raftopoulos, a cousin of FOX31’s Aristea Brady, said.
An elk carcass was discovered in the same area last week. State wildlife officers say the predators are likely gray wolves.
“They’re dang sure not a big pet,” Raftopoulos said. “They’re so big.”
Raftopoulos worries about the future of sheep and cattle in the area. He’s also concerned over the toll wolves could bring to the local ranching economy and the economies of small rural towns.
The animals haven’t lived in Colorado for more than 70 years. Some have been spotted occasionally passing through Colorado from the north.
“There are established packs up in Wyoming,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell.
CPW says wolves offer potential benefits to the ecosystem, but the agency also recognizes the concern for cattle.
Colorado voters will decide if wolves should be re-introduced to the state on a November 2020 ballot. But the carnivores may not wait to be invited.
“We have a very likely suspicion of what we’re dealing with up in the northwest corner, but at this point, we’re still doing some investigative work,” Ferrell explained.
CPW is asking anyone who spots wolves to take note and report what they see.
The animal is considered an endangered species. Ranchers and hunters are not allowed to kill them. Management of the gray wolf must be done on the federal level.
Those who support bringing wolves back to Colorado say a big benefit is controlling the spread of wildlife disease. Wolves are known for killing vulnerable animals afflicted with illnesses such as Chronic Wasting Disease. Those on the other side of the debate say wolves will actually spread the disease. They also warn of conflict between wolves and people.