First wave of wolf releases went flawlessly!


Historic day in the history of wildlife restoration

Conservationists celebrate the first release of gray wolves in Colorado

KREMMLING, CO – Today is a historic day in the history of North American wildlife management, as the first gray wolves were released in northwestern Colorado by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff, beginning the process of restoring one of our native species. The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, along with conservationists throughout the country, celebrated the release, which was three decades in the making.

Dozens of Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff were on hand to open the cages and release the animals, along with Colorado Governor Jared Polis, and Rocky Mountain Wolf Project science advisor Dr. Joanna Lambert. 

The five wolves released on Monday were captured in northeastern Oregon on Sunday, treated by veterinarians, fitted with GPS collars, and flown to Colorado, spending only about 24 hours in captivity. The release was on state land west of the Continental Divide in Grand County. The wolves hit the ground running, and are not expected to remain at the release site. Based on distances traveled after the hard releases in Idaho in 1995, we can expect the wolves to travel from 20 to 150 miles before settling down.

The reintroduction followed decades of planning by conservationists, a state plan for migrating wolves by CPW in 2004, and Proposition 114 in 2020—the first use of direct democracy to restore an endangered species anywhere in the world. During the three years since the voters of Colorado mandated wolf reintroduction, Colorado Parks and Wildlife conducted an extensive process of collaborative public engagement, and with the input of a Technical Working Group and a Stakeholder Advisory Group, developed the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan. The state plan includes the reintroduction, livestock conflict minimization and compensation, and an impact-based management framework; it was unanimously approved by the Parks and Wildlife Commission in May.

On December 8, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized an experimental population designation for wolves in Colorado, under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act, along with an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement, which provides management agencies with flexibility to address conflicts with people and livestock.

“Colorado has so much to be proud of in the events of today. It is a very rare occasion that humanity seizes the opportunity to reverse a historic injustice. I am proud to have been part of this effort, proud of Colorado, and proud of my colleagues who have helped this vision come to fruition. May all the wolves brought to Colorado find wild prey, a comfortable place to lay their head and a safe place to raise their pups.” said Rob Edward, strategic advisor to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project. Edward also led the campaign for Proposition 114.

“This initiative is bigger than five wolves…  This is the culmination of action by citizens and practitioners who are working together to rectify past actions and make a difference in an era of biodiversity loss.  Putting an apex predator back into a system not only reassembles food webs and restores ecological integrity, but it also provides hope that we can live in a world where both humans and wildlife can exist”. said Joanna Lambert, PhD, a University of Colorado Boulder professor and science advisor to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project.

“This is a historic day in the entwined histories of the western range and North American wildlife restoration,” said range scientist Matt Barnes, a former ranch manager who is now a science and coexistence advisor to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, and founder of Reintegrating Wildness at the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative. “Having served on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Stakeholder Advisory Group, and seen how our agencies, state universities, and wildlife NGOs have worked to address the concerns of ranchers and rural Coloradans, I maintain that Colorado’s wildlife officials have done a great job, and have been transparent and responsive to stakeholders’ concerns. Colorado is better prepared today than Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming were when wolves were reintroduced there in 1995.”

“Through relentless persecution, we have shown our disdain for the wolf. Now, nature gets her turn as this important apex carnivore is returned to its rightful place amidst its historic range in the wildlands of Colorado, engendering and inspiring awe and hope as we continue to find a way to remedy our past mistakes and support ecologically-significant species on human-dominated landscapes,” stated Courtney Vail, strategic advisor to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project. 

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, based in Colorado, is dedicated to working together for wolves and people. We are working towards a future where the myths and perceived negative impacts surrounding wolves are replaced by true coexistence between people and this much-maligned species, and where respect for both western livelihoods and an ecologically significant population of wolves can exist side-by-side in Colorado.